Five scientists including Vilnius University Biotechnology Institute Professor Virginijus Šikšnys, have shared the Warren Alpert Foundation Prize for significant contributions to the bacteria CRISPR anti-virus protection system knowledge. This is a revolutionary discovery because it can be applied to genome editing.
Virginijus Šikšnys
© DELFI / Tomas Vinickas

The Warren Alpert Foundation Prize is awarded to scientists whose research opens up new possibilities for the treatment of human diseases and prevention and is based on significant scientific discoveries, modifying our understanding of diseases and their treatment.

“It is a great honour to be among this year‘s and the previous years’ Warren Alpert Foundation winners. This award motivates us for even greater challenges. I am very happy that the fundamental issue of bacteria antivirus protection mechanisms that has been raised at the start eventually led to the creation of innovative solutions - a gene editing system,” said Professor Šikšnys.

These and previous findings will allow scientists to effectively fight so far incurable hereditary human diseases and help in developing new drugs for other diseases, including cancer.

Barrangou and Horvath found that the bacteria protect themselves from viruses using the CRISPR system, allowing to cut virus DNA in a particular place. Continuing these studies Professor Šikšnys with colleagues explained how the system works and showed that the system can be programmed to accurately cut the desired sequence in various organisms. This paved the way for targeted DNA sequence editing.

The five winners will share a total of €500,000 and the scientists will be honoured on October 6 at the Harvard Medical School symposium.

The Warren Alpert Foundation was established in 1987 and named after its founder, philanthropist Warren Alpert. To date, more than $3 million have been distributed to 54 scientists. Eight of them have received the Nobel Prize.

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