Mark Gordon Pictures has snapped up screen rights to Walter Isaacson’s latest book The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing and the Future of the Human Race, about Nobel Prize-winning scientist and co-inventor of CRISPR technology Jennifer Doudna, which the label will develop as a limited series.
The project reteams Gordon and Isaacson, the former having previously optioned the latter’s bestselling 2011 biography Steve Jobs, which was turned into a 2015 Oscar-nominated movie directed by Danny Boyle, adapted by Aaron Sorkin and starring Michael Fassbender as Jobs.
The book follows Doudna and her collaborators who turned a curiosity of nature into an invention poised to transform human health: an easy-to-use tool known as CRISPR that can edit DNA. Essentially, CRISPR-Cas9 allows scientists to rewrite DNA – the code of life – in any organism, including human cells, with unprecedented efficiency and precision, opening up a world of new possibilities and potential. Doudna’s work has been central in the rapid development of diagnostics and vaccines for Covid and also in engineering treatments for sickle cell anemia and certain forms of cancer.
Doudna and her collaborator Emmanuelle Charpentier won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 2020, the first time two women have won a Nobel Prize in the sciences together.
Code Breaker hit store shelves March 9 from Simon & Schuster, and subsequently spent several weeks atop the New York Times bestsellers list.
Mark Gordon and Beth Pattinson will executive produce the limited series project for Mark Gordon Pictures.
“At a time when science is more in the public eye than ever, it is a privilege to be entrusted with Jennifer’s story and to highlight the life-changing work performed by her and her extraordinary collaborators,” Pattinson said. “As a young child, Jennifer was told that science was not a job for women. Using Walter’s beautifully written book, we hope to demonstrate to a new generation that it very much is.”
Said Issacson: “I am delighted that Mark and Beth are going to make this exciting and inspiring story. It’s a thrilling detective tale about discovering the wonders of nature and inventing tools that can make us healthier and protect us from pandemics. Not all heroes wear capes. Some wear lab coats.”
Isaacson is a University Professor of History at Tulane, has been CEO of the Aspen Institute, chairman of CNN, and editor of Time magazine. He is the author of Leonardo da Vinci; Steve Jobs; Einstein: His Life and Universe; Benjamin Franklin: An American Life; and Kissinger: A Biography. He is also the co-author of The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made. He is repped by Amanda Urban & Ron Bernstein at ICM Partners.
Other literary works currently in development at Mark Gordon Pictures include Stephen McGinty’s The Dive; Calla Henkel’s debut novel, Other People’s Clothes; Norman Mailer’s American spy epic Harlot’s Ghost, and Anthony Quinn’s Curtain Call from Academy Award-nominated scribe Patrick Marber starring Colin Firth and Gemma Arterton.