The Shaw Prize in Life Science and Medicine 2019 is awarded to Maria Jasin, Member at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre (MSK) and Professor at the Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences, Cornell University, USA, for her work showing that localized double strand breaks in DNA stimulate recombination in mammalian cells. This seminal work was essential for and led directly to the tools enabling editing at specific sites in mammalian genomes.
We stand at a moment of great promise in the ability to modify the genomes of virtually all organisms on Earth using the precision tools of gene editing. In the near future, it will be possible to treat human and animal genetic diseases and to improve agricultural productivity by the introduction of specific changes at precise locations within chromosomes. The preferred tool of this revolution is called CRISPR/Cas9, and its development has been attributed to many investigators around the world. But, the origin of this technological advance relies upon a crucial discovery that was made by Maria Jasin in 1994 when she showed that the site-specific introduction of a double-stand break in a mammalian chromosome may be repaired by two different normal cellular process of recombination and chromosome end-joining.