Enzyme research delivers Chemistry Nobel Prize to two Americans and a Brit

Pablo Tucker
October 6, 2018

One half of the nine million Swedish kronor (£770,686) prize will go to the American Frances Arnold from the California Institute of Technology, US.

USA scientists Frances Arnold and George Smith and British researcher Gregory Winter won the Nobel Chemistry Prize on Wednesday for applying the principles of evolution to develop proteins used in everything from new biofuels to to the world's best-selling drug. They were the wish of Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, who established the organization that provides money for the prizes.

Noting that Ms Strickland is the first woman in 55 years to win a physics Nobel, Mr Moloney said that gap is "way too long".

Prof Arnold, who picks up half the award, conducted the first directed evolution of enzymes - proteins that catalyse chemical reactions. She then selected the cases where a particular mutation proved useful - for example, allowing the enzyme to work in a solvent it would otherwise not work in. Enzymes produced through directed evolution are used to manufacture everything from biofuels to pharmaceuticals. A phage is a virus that can infect bacteria in such a way as to deceive the microbes into reproducing it. Phage display is a technique that uses this process for creating and screening novel proteins.

These drugs - the first of which were approved in the early 2000s - are now routinely used to treat advanced cancers and autoimmune disorders and to counteract toxins. Medications for rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, and inflammatory bowel diseases have come from their work.


MU, under the leadership of Cartwright and System President Mun Choi, has begun a major push to double research spending and build a new laboratory to bring discoveries in medicine into clinical use.

She conducted her Nobel-winning research while still a PhD student working with Mourou in 1985 at the University of Rochester in NY. That's when she made the shift to what is known as directed evolution.

Smith also credited others for the work that led to his breakthrough, telling a news conference at the University of Missouri that he was simply a part of a "huge web" of science.

Sir Gregory, who is Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, said at the time of the call he was sitting at his computer "looking balefully" at his work schedule for the day. And though it's reassuring to hear that Dr. Strickland has not experienced harassment based on her gender in her career, these experiences are a definite departure from numerous contemporary conversations had around sexism in the science industry.

After repeatedly screening and mutating those microbes, she could use them to build a more powerful version of a desired protein.


He said he learned of the prize in a pre-dawn phone call from Stockholm.

Sir Gregory Winter used phage display to produce new pharmaceuticals.

For the first time in decades, the Nobel lineup will not feature a literature award this year after a rift within the Swedish Academy over a rape scandal involving the husband of a board member left it unable to select a victor.

The Nobel Prize in chemistry has been awarded to two researchers in the United States and one in Britain. Both did Nobel Prize-worthy work, so it's fitting that they have been chosen for this highest of scientific honors. The academy plans to announce both the 2018 and the 2019 victor next year - although the head of the Nobel Foundation has said the body must fix its tarnished reputation first.


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