CRISPR’s pioneers reflect on the first gene-editing treatment

The revolution started in silence.

Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier, now Nobelists, published their first paper announcing a new enzyme for editing DNA in Science in June 2012. It was called CRISPR-Cas9. It wasn’t until January 2013 that the first paper showing the enzyme would work in cells, from Feng Zhang, was published, also in Science. A similar paper from George Church came out at the same time.


No major media outlet covered the papers. The first story on CRISPR was published that March. But within the ivory tower of academia, it was clear something big was building, as requests for the technology poured in from other researchers and Zhang set up an assembly line in his laboratory to distribute it, with students carrying carefully packed samples to a FedEx office down the street.

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