October 23, 2018

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2018 Nobel Prize in Chemistry Awarded to Three for Revolutionary Research in Evolution

2018 Nobel Prize in Chemistry Awarded to Three for Revolutionary Research in Evolution

 

The 2018 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to Frances H. Arnold and the other half jointly to George P. Smith and Sir Gregory P. Winter on Wednesday for their work harnessing the power of evolution to develop new proteins used in drugs and medical treatments.

The Royal Swedish Academy said that this year’s prize ‘awards a revolution based on evolution,’ and goes to scientists who ‘applied the principles of Darwin in the test tube.’

‘What they’ve done is to really speed up evolution,’ Sara Snogerup Linse, member of the Nobel Committee, said.

The methods developed by the laureates have been put to work to create new enzymes and antibodies used in promoting a greener chemicals industry, mitigating disease and saving lives

 

Arnold, of the California Institute of Technology, was recognized for performing the first-ever ‘directed evolution’ of enzymes, which are proteins that catalyze chemical reactions. Enzymes produced through directed evolution are used to manufacture everything from sustainable biofuels to pharmaceuticals.

The American scientist and engineer is the fifth woman to have ever won the award after Ada Yonath in 2009, Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin in 1964, Irène Joliot-Curie in 1935, and her mother, Marie Curie, in 1911.

Smith, a professor at the University of Missouri, won for a method known as ‘phage display,’ which uses bacteriophage — a virus that infects bacteria — to evolve new proteins.

Winter, of the University of Cambridge in the UK, harnessed that method and used it to produce new antibodies, with the aim of making new drugs. Phage display has since been used to produce antibodies that can neutralize toxins, counteract autoimmune diseases and cure metastatic cancer.

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