Jennifer Doudna

Jennifer A. Doudna

Professor of Biochemistry, Biophysics and Structural Biology
Dept of Chemistry
Dept of Molecular & Cell Biology
(510) 643-0225
(510) 643-0080
Research Expertise and Interest
RNA machines, hepatitis C virus, RNA interference, ribosomes
Research Description

RNA forms a variety of complex globular structures, some of which function like enzymes or form functional complexes with proteins. There are two major areas of focus in the lab: viral control of human protein synthesis, and RNA-mediated gene regulation. We are interested in understanding and comparing molecular mechanisms of protein synthesis used in human cells and by viruses that infect those cells. In particular, we are investigating RNA-mediated initiation of protein synthesis, focusing on the internal ribosome entry site (IRES) RNA from Hepatitis C virus. Cryo-EM, x-ray crystallography and biochemical experiments are focused on understanding the structure and mechanism of the IRES and its amazing ability to hijack the human ribosome and associated translation factors. A second area of focus in the lab is the molecular basis for RNA-mediated genetic control, in which small RNAs are generated and used to target specific gene transcripts for destruction. Our lab investigates the pathways of small RNA-mediated gene regulation in both human cells and in bacteria. Each of these projects seeks to understand the molecular basis for RNA function, using a combination of structural, biophysical and biochemical approaches.

In the News

July 16, 2019

Eighth CRISPR patent issued by U.S.; seven more soon to come

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has awarded a new patent to the University of California (UC), University of Vienna, and Dr. Emmanuelle Charpentier covering methods of producing a genetically modified cell through the introduction of the Cas9 protein, or a nucleic acid encoding the Cas9 protein, as well as a single molecule DNA-targeting RNA. This patent (U.S. 10,351,878) covers the use of this method in a cell.
June 13, 2019

GlaxoSmithKline taps UC’s CRISPR expertise to speed drug discovery

The pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) today announced a five-year collaboration with UC Berkeley and UCSF to establish a laboratory where state-of-the-art CRISPR techniques will be used to explore how gene mutations cause disease, potentially yielding new technologies using CRISPR that would rapidly accelerate the discovery of new medicines.
March 28, 2019

Introducing a kinder, gentler way to blow holes in cells

A new technique developed by University of California, Berkeley uses inexpensive lab equipment to efficiently infuse large macromolecules into cells. Called nanopore-electroporation, or nanoEP, the technique gently creates fewer than a dozen tiny holes in each cell that are sufficient to let molecules into the cell without traumatizing it.
March 12, 2019

UC awarded third CRISPR patent, expanding its gene-editing portfolio

The University of California announced today that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) issued U.S. Patent Number 10,227,611 covering use of single-molecule RNA guides and Cas9 protein in any cell, thus creating efficient and effective ways for scientists to target and edit genes.
February 11, 2019

U.S. patent office indicates it will issue third CRISPR patent to UC

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has issued a notice of allowance for a University of California patent application covering systems and methods for using single molecule guide RNAs that, when combined with the Cas9 protein, create more efficient and effective ways for scientists to target and edit genes.
October 18, 2018

Doudna receives Medal of Honor from American Cancer Society

The American Cancer Society will bestow its highest honor, the Medal of Honor, on Jennifer Doudna and four others. The medal is awarded to distinguished individuals who have made valuable contributions in the fight against cancer through basic research, clinical research and cancer control.
July 21, 2017

Researchers discover how CRISPR proteins find their target

UC Berkeley researchers have discovered how Cas1-Cas2, the proteins responsible for the ability of the CRISPR immune system in bacteria to adapt to new viral infections, identify the site in the genome where they insert viral DNA so they can recognize it later and mount an attack.
July 19, 2017

Defense department pours $65 million into making CRISPR safer

With one eye on potential bioterrorism threats, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency today announced $65 million in funding to seven projects around the country – including one led by UC Berkeley – to improve the safety and accuracy of gene editing.
June 20, 2016

Taiwan’s Tang Prizes awarded to Doudna, Rosenfeld

Taiwan’s top science award, the Tang Prize, has gone to two UC Berkeley scientists well-known in the fields of biochemistry and physics: Jennifer Doudna, for her invention of CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing, and Arthur Rosenfeld, often called the “godfather of energy efficiency.”

February 27, 2015

Unlocking the Key to Immunological Memory in Bacteria

A powerful genome editing tool may soon become even more powerful. Researchers with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have unlocked the key to how bacteria are able to “steal” genetic information from viruses and other foreign invaders for use in their own immunological memory system.

April 3, 2014

College of Chemistry launches research hub with BASF, UCLA and Stanford

The College of Chemistry has launched a new collaborative research center, the California Research Alliance by BASF (CARA), a multidisciplinary effort focused on innovation and technology transfer. Along with Berkeley and the chemical company BASF, CARA academic partners include UCLA and Stanford University.

March 18, 2014

Crispr Goes Global

Jennifer Doudna and her colleagues showed that CRISPR/Cas9, can be used with great precision to selectively disable or add several genes at once in human cells, offering a potent new tool to understand and treat complex genetic diseases.

February 6, 2014

New insight into an emerging genome-editing tool

Biochemist Jennifer Doudna and biophysicist Eva Nogales led an international collaboration with results that point the way to the rational design of new and improved versions of Cas9 enzymes for basic research and genetic engineering.

January 29, 2014

Puzzling question in bacterial immune system answered

A team of researchers with the Berkeley Lab and UC Berkeley have determined how the bacterial enzyme known as Cas9, guided by RNA, is able to identify and degrade foreign DNA during viral infections, as well as induce site-specific genetic changes in animal and plant cells

January 7, 2013

Cheap and easy technique to snip DNA could revolutionize gene therapy

A simple, precise and inexpensive method for cutting DNA to insert genes into human cells could transform genetic medicine, making routine what now are expensive, complicated and rare procedures for replacing defective genes in order to fix genetic disease or even cure AIDS.

October 11, 2010

Doudna elected to Institute of Medicine

Jennifer Doudna has been elected a member of the Institute of Medicine, considered one of the highest honors in the fields of medicine and health. A professor of molecular and cell biology and an LBNL scientist, Doudna is one of only 12 IOM members on the UC Berkeley faculty.

Featured in the Media

Please note: The views and opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily reflect the official policies or positions of the campus.
April 30, 2019
Melr Rinde

Biochemist Jennifer Doudna and her colleagues rocked the research world in 2012 when they described a simple way of editing the DNA of any organism using an RNA-guided protein found in bacteria. Discovery of the CRISPR-Cas9 technology sharply accelerated work on human and nonhuman gene editing, helping researchers develop potential treatments for HIV, sickle-cell disease, and muscular dystrophy. Doudna, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, has become the public face of CRISPR and an advocate for robust public discussion of the ethical implications of gene editing. In November 2018 she visited the Science History Institute to give the annual Ullyot Public Affairs Lecture and receive the accompanying award. Before the talk Distillations writer Meir Rinde sat down with Doudna to find out what scientists can do with CRISPR, whether we should worry about designer embryos, and how to grow 500 tomatoes on a single plant.

March 4, 2019
Claire Hoffman
In a series called "Women Shaping the Future," molecular and cell biology professor Jennifer Doudna is profiled for her co-invention of the CRISPR gene-editing technology, which the writers describe as "capable of changing the DNA of any living thing almost as simply as using a find-and-replace function in a word processor." While noting the life-affirming potential of the technology -- from curing heritable diseases to enhancing crops -- they also highlight her leadership in ensuring that the technology is used ethically and responsibly. Professor Doudna was also interviewed by BBC--link to audio.
February 11, 2019
Brendan Pierson, Reuters
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has decided to grant the University of California a new patent recognizing the pioneering work of molecular and cell biology professor Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier of the University of Vienna in the initial development of CRISPR gene-editing technology. According to Eldora Ellison, UC's lead patent strategist on CRISPR matters: "The issued patent will encompass the use of CRISPR-Cas9 technology in any cellular or non-cellular environment." The patent, expected to be issued within two months, could be worth billions of dollars in future applications, including the treatment of heritable diseases and crop engineering. Stories on this topic have appeared in dozens of sources around the world, including Science Magazine, Science and Enterprise, STAT, and Fortune.
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