Nov. 5, 2015

Genome editing pioneer Doudna to give Racker Lecture

Jennifer Doudna

A new technique in genome engineering that allows DNA to be edited almost as easily as editing text will be the topic of this year’s Ef Racker Lecture at Cornell.

Biochemist Jennifer Doudna, one of the scientists who pioneered the technique, will speak on “CRISPR Biology: Basic Science and Biotechnology” Thursday, Nov. 19, at 8 p.m. in Kennedy Hall’s Call Alumni Auditorium, followed by a reception in Kennedy Atrium. Free and open to the public.

“Dr. Doudna epitomizes the spirit and research style of Efraim Racker, who strongly believed that research into fundamental basic biology has broad ramifications for biomedicine and disease. He was a true champion of basic research,” said Richard Cerione, the Goldwin Smith Professor of Pharmacology and Chemical Biology. “Dr. Doudna represents a terrific example of this idea, as she discovered through purely basic research that certain bacteria contained a unique system for editing DNA, now referred to as CRISPR or CRISPR/Cas9. This technique is being used in a vast array of systems and applications, and one day possibly will be used to correct aberrant or disease genes in humans.”

Research by Doudna into how RNA molecules control the expression of genetic information led to insights about CRISPR-Cas9-mediated bacterial immunity that enabled her lab and that of collaborator Emmanuelle Charpentier to redesign this system for efficient genome engineering in animals and plants. The technology is revolutionizing the fields of genetics, molecular biology and medicine.

Doudna is the Li Ka Shing Chancellor’s Chair in Biomedical and Health Sciences and professor of molecular and cell biology and professor of chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, and an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine and the National Academy of Inventors.

On Friday, Nov. 20, Doudna will offer a seminar on “The CRISPR-Cas9 Genome Engineering Revolution” at 4 p.m. in G-10 Biotech Building, followed by a reception. The seminar will be live streamed via Webex; register at and enter MBG@cu1 as the password.

The Racker Lectureship is named for the late Efraim Racker, who was the Albert Einstein Professor of Biochemistry and chair of the Section of Biochemisty, Molecular and Cell Biology at Cornell.

Linda B. Glaser is a staff writer for the College of Arts and Sciences.