The Specialty Products Division of DowDuPont, Wilmington, Del., said Philippe Horvath, senior scientist, was awarded the Franklin Institute’s prestigious 2018 Bower Award and Prize for Achievement in Science. Horvath will be honored for groundbreaking research on CRISPR-Cas during a ceremony in April 2018 in Philadelphia.
DuPont Nutrition & Health takes advantage of the native CRISPR-Cas system to select, through a fully natural process, bacteria that are immunized against bacteriophages. The natural immunization process does not involve gene editing technologies, the company said. The use of starter cultures containing such immunized bacteria ultimately improves the quality and safety of fermented dairy foods.
CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) is a feature naturally existing in bacteria, providing protection against viruses. DuPont said its scientists were among the first to understand how the CRISPR system works in bacteria. The RNA-guided Cas9 protein is one of several CRISPR-derived tools and differs from the natural CRISPR process used to identify and immunize bacteria.
Horvath’s initial article, published in Science in 2007, provided the first biological evidence that CRISPR-Cas constitutes an immunity system against viruses in bacteria. Beginning in the early 2000s, Horvath and colleagues initially utilized CRISPR for bacterial identification, then for its ability to improve the resistance of starter culture strains against bacteriophage attack. The discoveries opened new research avenues and laid the groundwork that inspired numerous scientists to pursue the CRISPR field.
Based at the DuPont Nutrition & Health site in Dangé-Saint-Romain, France, Horvath already has been honored with three of the world’s leading science awards: the 2015 Massry Prize, the 2016 Warren Alpert Foundation Prize and the 2016 Canada Gairdner International Award, DuPont noted.
“DuPont congratulates Philippe on this wonderful recognition,” said Alexa Dembek, chief technology and sustainability officer for the Specialty Products Division of DowDuPont. “We are proud of the achievements made by Philippe and the entire CRISPR team at DuPont.
“It is a great testament to our company’s heritage in scientific innovation and the incredible work that has been done to advance new ideas and solve some of the world’s biggest challenges,” Dembek continued. “The early discoveries made by Philippe and team opened new areas of research and opportunities to use CRISPR-Cas in a range of scientific fields.”