The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters has decided to award the Kavli Prize in Nanoscience for 2018 to Emmanuelle Charpentier (Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology, Berlin, GERMANY), Jennifer A. Doudna (University of California, Berkeley, USA) and Virginijus Šikšnys (Vilnius University, Vilnius, LITHUANIA) for the invention of CRISPR-Cas9, a precise nanotool for editing DNA, causing a revolution in biology, agriculture, and medicine.

To repair a defect in the genome of an organism, one would have to remove, alter, or insert a genetic code at atomically precise locations in the DNA sequence. This vision is now a reality with CRISPR-Cas9, a nanotool that opens a door towards curing hereditary diseases and boosting agriculture. CRISPR-Cas9 constitutes a revolutionary innovation compared to prior techniques, which were tedious, imprecise, and costly. 

CRISPR-Cas9 is simple to use.

A small RNA molecule is synthesized to encode the address of the DNA sequence to be altered. This RNA molecule is attached to a Cas9 protein to form a CRISPR-Cas9 complex. The complex attaches to the target DNA. Cas9 then opens and cleaves the DNA at exactly the desired location.

As the DNA segments reconnect, genes may be inserted or defunctionalized. In this way, disease-causing mutations can be corrected by changing the underlying genetic code. CRISPR-Cas9 works on many organisms, including plants, fungi, animals, and humans.