DuPont Scientist Philippe Horvath Awarded 2015 Massry Prize
DuPont Senior Scientist Philippe Horvath, based in Dangé-Saint-Romain, France, has been awarded the prestigious Massry Prize for his work on CRISPR-Cas. Horvath shares the prize with Jennifer Doudna, professor, Molecular & Cell Biology and Chemistry at Berkeley University of California, and Emmanuelle Charpentier, scientific member and director at the Max Planck Institute in Berlin.
The Massry Prize will be presented on Oct. 31 in Beverly Hills, Calif. The laureates were selected by a committee of distinguished professors representing both the University of Southern California (USC) and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). A number of Massry Prize recipients have gone on to win the Nobel Prize. Horvath is the first DuPont scientist to receive the award.
Horvath’s article, published in Science (Barrangou et al., 2007, Science 315, pp. 1709-1712), provided the first biological evidence that CRISPR-Cas constitutes an immunity system against viruses in bacteria.
Beginning in the early 2000s, Horvath and colleagues initially utilized CRISPR for bacterial identification, then for its ability to improve the resistance of starter culture strains against bacteriophage attack. The discoveries opened new research avenues and inspired numerous scientists to pursue the CRISPR field.
“Today, more than ever before, the world needs scientists to invent and develop new ways to solve global challenges. We are very proud of Philippe and honored to be associated with his receiving the Massry Prize. Philippe epitomizes what it means to innovate at DuPont,” said Douglas Muzyka, DuPont senior vice president and chief science and technology officer. “DuPont’s vision is to apply world-class science to enable a better, safer and healthier life for people everywhere. Our scientists provide the knowledge and ingenuity to identify and apply new solutions, like CRISPR-Cas which has tremendous potential to address challenges in a range of scientific fields.”
“The 2015 Massry Prize recognizes the discovery of a mechanism of bacterial immunity and the unexpected realization that the solution has biomedical implications well beyond the initial expectations of the investigators,” added Shaul G. Massry, M.D., professor emeritus of medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California. “And so a revolution began. What started as an obscure problem in commercial microbiology begat a revolution in the modification of animal genomes that will transform understanding of normal development and therapies for a wide range of diseases.”
DuPont is a leader in the CRISPR area, with about 60 patents and applications and more than 30 published scientific articles and book chapters. The company leverages CRISPR in at least two distinct ways:
DuPont Nutrition & Health takes advantage of the native CRISPR-Cas system to select, through a fully natural process, bacteria that are immunized against bacteriophages. The natural immunization process does not involve gene editing technologies. The use of starter cultures containing such immunized bacteria ultimately improves the quality and safety of fermented dairy foods.
DuPont Pioneer utilizes CRISPR-derived tools for genome editing applications, and recently announced collaborations with Caribou Biosciences, a leading developer of CRISPR-Cas technologies for genome editing, and Vilnius University, a research leader in the field. The genome editing technology is capable of making exact changes to the DNA of many organisms. In plants this editing capability can be applied to promote drought tolerance and disease resistance to protect plant health and increase crop yields. It also can eliminate food allergens and improve the nutrient composition of plant-derived oils.
CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) is a feature naturally existing in bacteria providing protection against viruses. DuPont scientists were among the first to understand how the CRISPR system works in bacteria. CRISPR-Cas is one of several CRISPR-derived tools and differs from the natural CRISPR process used to identify and immunize bacteria.
The Meira and Shaul G. Massry Foundation established the Massry Prize in 1996 to recognize outstanding contributions to the biomedical sciences and the advancement of health. Founded by Dr. Shaul Massry, the nonprofit foundation promotes education and research in nephrology, physiology, and related fields.