Nobel Prize predictions see honors for gene editing technology

Thu Sep 24, 2015 12:01am EDT
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By Julie Steenhuysen

Sept 24 (Reuters) - Scientists behind the discovery of a technology called CRISPR-Cas9 that allows researchers to edit virtually any gene they target are among the top contenders for Nobel prizes next month, according to an annual analysis by Thomson Reuters.

The predictions announced on Thursday come from the Intellectual Property & Science unit of Thomson Reuters (which also owns the Reuters news service). Since 2002, it has accurately identified 37 scientists who went on to become Nobel laureates, although not necessarily in the year in which they were named.

IP&S, which sells data, bases its forecasts on the number of times a scientist's work is cited by others in published papers.

Citations can reflect a study's influence, but also serve as a way of measuring a scientist's standing. And since Nobel nominations come from past winners and leading scientists, reputation counts.

Scientists selected as "Citation Laureates" rank in the top 1 percent of citations in their research areas.

"That is a signpost that the research wielded a lot of impact," said Christopher King, an analyst with IP&S who helped select the winners.

Among the predicted winners for the Nobel Prize in Chemistry are Emmanuelle Charpentier of Helmholtz Center for Infection Research in Germany and Jennifer Doudna of the University of California, Berkeley. They were picked for their development of the CRISPR-Cas9 method for genome editing.

The technique has taken biology by storm, igniting fierce patent battles between start-up companies and universities, and touching off ethical debates over its potential for editing human embryos.   Continued...