Nobel week – is it time to recognize CRISPR or DNA sequencing?

There is no Nobel Prize in biology – but biologists are recognized almost every year by awards in the categories of chemistry and medicine. This year’s awards can be particularly close to genetic research, as we are still waiting for an appreciation of gene modifications and reading.

Award in medicine (“or physiology”) will be announced on Monday (Oct 7th) at 9:30 AM UTC (4:30 AM EST). Award in chemistry will be announced on Wednesday (Oct 9th) at 9:45 AM UTC (4:35 AM EST).

One of the most thorough speculations on the internet, by Jason Sheltzer, proposes three plausible areas:

  • DNA sequencing
  • Gene regulation
  • Gene editing

Namely, CRISPR and Next Generation Sequencing are two enormously significant technologies, still without official recognition by the Nobel committee.

The relative novelty of CRISPR seems to exclude it from considerations. It is unusual to see prizes so quickly – even the discovery of DNA structure was awarded 9 years after the publication of Watson and Crick. However, the pace of the CRISPR revolution (as well as recent discussions at the level of WHO and UN) might persuade judges to break the rule.

In contrast, DNA sequencing seems more plausible on every ground. It is settled technology, born in the early 2000s, which already changed all branches of biology and is proceeding to take over at least part of medicine. We are also very far from the last award in the area of DNA reading – which went to Sanger, Gilbert, and Berg in 1980. There are also other significant venues of DNA sequencing that are farther from technology, such as Human Genome Project or genetic screening (oncological, prenatal, Mendelian), which certainly fit “the greatest benefit to humankind”.

As always, we can also be surprised by the recognition of any significant discovery from the last few decades.

We’ll see the results shortly!

Photo source: Copyright © Nobel Media AB 2018. Photo: Alexander Mahmoud.
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