DuPont scientist receives Franklin Institute Science Prize 2018 Bower Award for CRISPR-Cas research

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08 Nov 2017 --- The Specialty Products Division of DowDuPont today announced that Senior Scientist Philippe Horvath has been awarded the US’ Franklin Institute’s prestigious 2018 Bower Award and Prize for Achievement in Science. Horvath will be honored for groundbreaking research on CRISPR-Cas during a ceremony in April 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, US.

Horvath’s initial article, published in Science in 2007 (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, the DuPont press release notes.Click to Enlarge

“I am deeply honored to be selected by the Franklin Institute for the pioneering work our team has done,” says Horvath (pictured). “Our findings, which were focused on the natural CRISPR-Cas system, will continue to have a significant impact in the fight against viral infections during food fermentations and are finding new applications in tools for genome editing, including opportunities for plant improvement and gene therapy.”

Opening up inspiring research avenues
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 laid the groundwork that inspired numerous scientists to pursue the CRISPR field.

Based at the DuPont Nutrition & Health site in Dangé-Saint-Romain, France, Horvath has already been honored with three of the world’s leading science awards: the 2015 Massry Prize, the 2016 Warren Alpert Foundation Prize and the 2016 Canada Gairdner International Award.

“DuPont congratulates Philippe on this wonderful recognition. We are proud of the achievements made by Philippe and the entire CRISPR team at DuPont,” says Alexa Dembek, chief technology and sustainability officer for the Specialty Products Division of DowDuPont.

“It is a great testament to our company’s heritage in scientific innovation and the incredible work that has been done to advance new ideas and solve some of the world’s biggest challenges,” Dembek continues. “The early discoveries made by Philippe and team opened new areas of research and opportunities to use CRISPR-Cas in a range of scientific fields.”

DowDuPont is a leader in the CRISPR area, DuPont notes, with about 60 patents and applications and more than 30 published scientific articles and book chapters. The company says it 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 applies CRISPR-Cas as an advanced plant-breeding tool as a targeted way to improve plants and help farmers produce more and better food, with fewer resources. The superior properties of CRISPR-Cas allow scientists to develop innovative and sustainable seed products for growers similar to those realized through conventional plant breeding with, but with even greater efficiency, accuracy and quality. Potential product characteristics include improved drought tolerance, disease resistance and nutritional value. Pioneer has previously announced related licensing and collaboration agreements with Vilnius University, Caribou Biosciences and ERS Genomics.

CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) is a feature that naturally exists in bacteria, providing protection against viruses. DuPont notes that its scientists were among the first to understand how the CRISPR system works in bacteria. The RNA-guided Cas9 protein is one of several CRISPR-derived tools and differs from the natural CRISPR process used to identify and immunize bacteria.

DuPont scientist Stephanie Kwolek, inventor of DuPont Kevlar aramid fiber, received the Franklin Institute Potts Award in 1976 for her “discovery of technology for spinning fibers of polymers having exceptional strength and stiffness.”

DuPont

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DuPont claim to be “a world leader in market-driven innovation and science.” They have a business that has spanned two centuries (so far) and is active in more than 90 countries.

DuPont are focused upon providing food and beverage Industry innovations for a growing population.

DuPont’s stated aim is to improve the nutritional value of food, ensuring food safety, and finding smart, sustainable solutions to feed a growing population.

They say they offer food and beverage producers and manufacturers the leading range of solutions in the industry. Beginning at the farm, their hybrid seeds and crop protection solutions help increase food production. At the manufacturing and production level, their premium ingredients, like soy proteins from Solae and probiotics, help create nutritious, healthy, and innovative products.

“From planting the first seed to feeding billions of people, DuPont is committed to helping achieve a better, safer, and healthier food supply to meet the demands of a growing world—today and tomorrow.”

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