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On the Go

Emmanuelle Charpentier has always been on the go, the New York Times writes of the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology researcher of CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing fame. But lately, it adds, it's been less bouncing from position to position as an itinerant researcher to waking up in the middle of the night to work before returning to sleep.

Charpentier tells the Times that she chose an itinerant scientific life — she's worked at nine institutions in five countries in the last 25 years. "What was important to me was to tackle different fields and see different institutions, different environments, learn different techniques, see different approaches," she says. "And in Europe, it is not easy to have a permanent position, especially when you are a foreigner in that country."

Her work on CRISPR, it adds, has changed her life. Charpentier recounts to the Times when her students told her the results of key experiments, one that revealed that CRISPR/Cas9 consisted of a protein and two RNA molecules and another that showed CRISPR/Cas9 could cleave DNA. Both times, she says, she was in her office in the evening when she got an email with the results and rushed out to share the news with a colleague or her lab.

Charpentier has also founded two biotech companies. One called Crispr Therapeutics hopes to harness the CRISPR/Cas9 approach to treat genetic disorders like sickle cell or cystic fibrosis, while the other, ERS Genomics, is set up to license the technology to other companies.

"I don't have time to have a social life or even a cultural life," she adds.