Barrangou awarded NAS Prize in Food and Agriculture Sciences

March 6, 2018

Rodolphe Barrangou, associate professor of Food Science at North Carolina State University, has won the National Academy of Sciences 2018 NAS Prize in Food and Agriculture Sciences for his discovery of the genetic mechanisms and proteins driving CRISPR systems and their applications in food and agriculture, including virus resistance in the yogurt starter culture Streptococcus thermophilus and with the potential for translational genome editing in other microbes, crop plants, and livestock.

Barrangou will receive a medal and a $100,000 prize. The award will be presented during the 155th NAS Annual Meeting on Sunday, April 29.

Starting with their landmark paper in 2007, Barrangou and his collaborators illustrated that bacteria capture and integrate new DNA sequences called “spacers” into a feature of their genome called “clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats” (CRISPRs). The CRISPR, they discovered, work together with cas (CRISPR-associated) genes to provide specific resistance and adaptive immunity against viruses. The worldwide attention devoted to this discovery allowed researchers to address questions of bacterial survival, population diversity, and evolutionary dynamics. Other subsequent studies unraveled the mechanistic basis for the Cas nucleases mode of action.

In the years since, Barrangou has remained at the forefront of CRISPR-related research. He led the first major practical application of these discoveries, an effort to guide adaptive virus immunity in yogurt and cheese starter cultures and helped solve an industrial problem that affects millions of gallons of milk around the world every day. Barrangou also showed that adaptive immunity can target plasmids and functions by cleaving DNA.

Press release