Dr Kathy Niakan has been named in the 'TIME 100', an annual list of the most influential people in the world in the past year. She was nominated by Jennifer Doudna, co-inventor of the CRISPR-CAs9 genome editing technique.
Each year, TIME magazine produces a list of the 100 most influential people in recognition of their work in politics, technology, science, philanthropy, media, business and entertainment in a changing world. Dr Niakan is named alongside the likes of Angela Merkel, Leonardo DiCaprio and Tim Cook.
TIME is honouring Dr Niakan's role in extending the boundaries of research by being the first person to apply for a licence to use the CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing technique in human embryos.
Dr Niakan, Group Leader of the Human Embryo and Stem Cell Laboratory at the Crick, recently received approval from the UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) to use the technique as part of research aiming to understand the genes human embryos need to develop successfully.
TIME Editor Nancy Gibbs said: "The TIME 100 is a list of the world's most influential men and women. As much as this exercise chronicles the achievements of the past year, we also focus on figures whose influence is likely to grow, so we can look around the corner to see what is coming."
Jennifer Doudna, co-inventor of CRISPR/Cas9, said: "Niakan's work will answer previously unanswerable questions about the earliest stages of human reproduction - what makes a healthy embryo, what factors contribute to infertility and what goes wrong when pregnancies don't progress as planned. Her experiments are setting the stage for a future in which our DNA represents not just our destiny but opportunity as well, a chance to better the human condition - as long as we tread carefully."
The final list of influential individuals is chosen by TIME editors, with nominations coming from the TIME 100 alumni and the magazine's international writing staff.
Born in Memphis, Tennessee, Dr Niakan obtained a BSc in cell and molecular biology and a BA in English literature from the University of Washington, USA. A short spell of research experience inspired her to pursue molecular biology and genetics. She obtained her PhD at University of California, Los Angeles, USA, where she researched stem cell and developmental biology. She was a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University, then moved to the University of Cambridge where she continued to investigate the molecular basis of early cell fate decisions in humans and mice. She is now a group leader at the Crick, investigating the mechanisms of lineage specification in human embryos and stem cells.