The inventors behind the CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technology, which could eventually help eliminate diseases such as sickle cell anemia, are the recipients of the Intellectual Property Owners Education Foundation’s 44th Inventor of the Year Award.

Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats allow scientists to identify diseased or mutated gene sequences in the human genome, then remove and replace them with healthy genes. Dr. Jennifer Doudna was named to accept the award on behalf of the team at the University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Feng Zhang was to accept the award on behalf of the team at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, and the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT.

CRISPR is “the hallmark of a bacterial defense system that forms the basis for CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing technology,” according to the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. “CRISPR ‘spacer’ sequences are transcribed into short RNA sequences…capable of guiding the system to matching sequences of DNA.

“When the target DNA is found, Cas9—one of the enzymes produced by the CRISPR system—binds to the DNA and cuts it, shutting the targeted gene off.”

IPOEF is honoring the inventor teams in recognition of their commitment to innovation and the positive impact it will have on society.

IPOEF Executive Director Mark Lauroesch said: “We are proud to give this year’s award to the scientific teams behind this groundbreaking technology. CRISPR-Cas9 has already inspired a number of follow-on inventions. We are excited to see the positive impact this technology will have in the future.”

The Inventor of the Year Award fosters the spirit of innovation and highlights the protection offered to inventors by the patent system. It is one of several programs of Intellectual Property Owners Education Foundation, a nonprofit subsidiary of Intellectual Property Owners Association, for educating the public on the importance of intellectual property rights.