Jennifer A. Doudna
Jennifer A. Doudna is the Li Ka Shing Chancellor’s Chair in Biomedical and Health Sciences; Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology; and Professor of Chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley. She is also an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Doudna’s work explains how RNA can act like an enzyme to catalyze specific biochemical reactions and how polyanionic RNA forms a three-dimensional structure. With her husband Jamie Cate, Doudna was the first to solve the structure of the Tetrahymena Group I ribozyme, the second solved folded RNA structure since tRNA. They discovered that magnesium ions cluster at the center of the ribozyme and serve as a core for RNA folding similar to that of a hydrophobic core of a protein. This work led to further structural studies on the HDV ribozyme, the IRES, and protein-RNA complexes like the Signal Recognition Particle. Her lab now focuses on obtaining a mechanistic understanding of biological processes involving RNA. This work is divided over three major areas: the CRISPR system, RNA interference, and translational control via microRNAs. Her work lays the foundation for understanding the evolution of RNAs and their relationship to the molecules that played a role in early forms of life. In 2000 Doudna received the Alan T. Waterman Award, the United States's highest honor for scientists no older than 35, from the National Science Foundation. Since then she has received numerous other prestigious awards including the Eli Lilly Award, the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, the Dr. Paul Janssen Award in Biomedical Research, and the Lurie Prize in Biomedical Science. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine, in addition to her American Academy of Arts and Sciences Membership. Her numerous publications appear in journals such as Nature and Science.