In this episode of Bio Eats World, we talk to Dr. Jennifer Doudna—winner of the 2020 Nobel Prize for the co-discovery (with Emmanuelle Charpentier) of CRISPR-Cas9—about the art and science of biology. Huge breakthroughs such as Doudna’s—which began with the identification of CRISPR in bacteria and was then built into a highly adaptable genome editing platform—are now fueling the evolution of the field. Fundamental knowledge that has largely come from curiosity-driven science has converged with enabling technologies, allowing scientists and biologists in particular to do things that even a couple of years ago, we would have found unimaginable. And biology has begun to shift from an artisanal process, to an industrial one—shifting from qualitative, descriptive science, to quantitative, predictive, high-throughput, science with increasing automation.
In this conversation, a16z General Partner Vijay Pande and Doudna talk about what happens as CRISPR and other tools to engineer and interrogate biology mature. What does the future of biology look like? Can discovery itself be engineered and industrialized—and how do we recognize the moment that becomes possible? Doudna talks about the arc of her career and work through this lens, from basic research to applied; what can be built tomorrow on today’s discoveries; and what at the end of the day may never be engineerable.