Emmanuelle Charpentier, discoverer of gene scissors, will conduct research in her own building starting in 2024
Emmanuelle Charpentier, winner of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, is expected to move with her “Max Planck Research Unit for the Science of Pathogens” to her own building on Albrechtstraße in Berlin-Mitte in 2024. This was announced by the governing mayor and science senator Michael Müller on Monday at a press conference on the occasion of the Nobel Prize award to the 51-year-old microbiologist, who was born near Paris. She is currently still conducting research at the Charité campus in Mitte. “We have succeeded in freeing up our own building in Albrechtstrasse,” Müller said, “which we will be able to make available to the Max Planck Society free of charge for the next 50 years as part of a ground lease agreement starting Nov. 1.”
This means that Charpentier, who had held various positions at research institutes in the United States, Austria, Sweden and Germany before moving to Berlin, should now actually settle down in the capital. Years of efforts to provide the science location with “better framework conditions” for research and to be better perceived internationally have now been recognized with the Nobel Prize, Müller said.
One reason why her choice in 2015 fell on Berlin, Charpentier said, was the local tradition in infection research and microbiology, which goes back to Robert Koch, Rudolf Virchow and Paul Ehrlich. But at some point, she said, she also found that she could always work well with German scientists in all the laboratories where she had done research.
Charpentier took the opportunity to thank not only them, but also the many other, almost exclusively young, European colleagues, research funding institutions and academies who had supported her team and her personally for a long time. But the prize, she said, is also a tribute to all the staff at research institutions who are not in the lab but keep the “machinery” of science running.
She said the prize encourages basic researchers like her to pursue their scientific curiosity and appreciates their multidisciplinary approach to research, their life choices and their long journey through so many research projects and institutions, especially in Austria and Sweden. “All of this now comes together and makes sense with the Nobel Prize.”
With Emmanuelle Charpentier, the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities (BBAW) now has 80 researchers on its membership list who have been awarded the Nobel Prize, said BBAW President Christoph Markschies. But this time it is something “very special,” he said, because the possibilities opened up by the gene scissors Crispr/Cas9 are a “revolution” and “revolutionary consequences” are to be expected. However, according to the theologian Markschies, this also raises many questions as to how the possibilities of gene-scissors technology, which may even make “human beings designable” beyond medical interventions, will be dealt with in the future. This is a question to be answered internationally. The awarding of the Nobel Prize to Berlin shows that science in Berlin, which at the time of the founding of the BBAW still used French as the language of science, is now – again – international, Markschies said. Sascha Karberg
In Koch’s tradition. One reason for her to come to Berlin was the history of infection research in the city, says Nobel laureate Emmanuelle Charpentier. Photo: John Macdougall/AFP