Professor Charpentier, director of the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology in Berlin, Germany, and Professor Doudna, professor of chemistry and molecular and cell biology at the University of California, Berkeley, will be honoured in a ceremony hosted by the Emperor and Empress of Japan on 19 April. A cash award of 50 million Japanese yen (approximately £360,000) will be given to each laureate.
The third 2017 laureate, Dr Adi Shamir, professor of computer science at the Weizmann Institute, Israel, was awarded the Japan Prize for his contribution to information security through pioneering research on cryptography.
Professors Charpentier and Doudna worked together on a 2012 paper describing the CRISPR/Cas9 technology. With CRISPR, it is possible to make very precise cuts in DNA in a relatively simple manner. Importantly, the technique works in all types of cells and organisms. Although still novel, the technique has already revolutionised research, but is also the subject of a patent dispute between UC Berkeley and the Broad Institute.
The duo have already won several other major awards for their work on CRISPR, including the 2015 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences and the 2016 L'Oreal-UNESCO for Women in Science Award.
Since 1985, the Japan Prizes have been awarded annually to scientists and engineers from two different fields who have made significant contributions to the advancement of science and technology. The Japan Prize Foundation selects two fields each year for which prizes will be awarded. Up to 13,000 scientists in these fields can then be nominated by scientists and researchers invited by the Foundation, and winners are selected by the Foundation.
Previous winners of the Japan Prize include the inventor of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, in 2002, and Kary Mullis in 1993, who went on to win the Nobel Prize for his discovery of the polymerase chain reaction.