Published: Thu, October 04, 2018
Science | By Michele Flores

Chemistry Nobel Prize Goes to Frances Arnold, George Smith and Gregory Winter

Chemistry Nobel Prize Goes to Frances Arnold, George Smith and Gregory Winter

Sir Greg Winter, of Cambridge University, was one of three scientists honoured for their work in producing new enzymes and antibodies, including treatments for cancer.

Her willingness to try a radically different approach was key to her success, said Todd Hyster, an assistant professor of chemistry who did his postdoctoral research in Arnold's lab at Caltech. "First I was stunned, like somebody hit me over the head with something, and then I started to wake up", she said. These enzymes can be used in chemical processes that produce medicines. "Professor Arnold's scientific excellence and intellectual leadership exemplify values essential to our University, and all of us at Princeton are celebrating her receipt of this well-deserved honor".

This year's other honorees-Smith and Winter-have both made significant contributions to the phage display method, which finds a bacteria-infecting virus known as a bacteriophage employed in the evolution of new proteins. Medications for rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, and inflammatory bowel diseases have come from their work. In 1993, she conducted the first directed evolution of enzymes, which are proteins that catalyse chemical reactions.

"They have applied the principles of Darwin in test tubes".

This method has been used to create antibodies that can neutralize toxins such as that which causes anthrax and slows down an autoimmune disease called lupis, and even cure metastatic cancer.

"My sense is that women often work towards the collective good and often may sacrifice their individual career for advancing the community", she said.

After obtaining her undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering from Princeton in 1979, Arnold worked briefly in Golden, Colorado, at the Solar Energy Research Institute - now the National Renewable Energy Laboratory - before enrolling in Berkeley's chemical engineering department to work with Blanch on biofuels.

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Arnold is only the fifth woman to win the prize in its 117-year history. After many rounds of mutation and selection, artificial chemical evolution can select for the best antibody to fight a certain infection.

"My hat's off to Smith, Winter, and Arnold for their contributions to this multidisciplinary field that beautifully integrates chemistry, molecular biology, and protein science".

Within a year of receiving King Faisal Prize for his outstanding research into the body's n atural defenses against cancer, the USA immunologist Professor James P. Allison has been named the victor of this year's Nobel Prize in Medicine for his pioneering approach to cancer treatment. They were the wish of Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, who established the organization that provides money for the prizes.

The 2018 Nobel season continues on Friday with the announcement of the peace prize, and wraps up on Monday with the economics prize. I am delighted to see these areas of chemistry recognised and congratulate all three Nobel Laureates'.

"This year's prize is about harnessing the power of evolution", the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said.

A trio of physicists - Arthur Ashkin of the US, Gerard Mourou of France and Donna Strickland of Canada - shared the Physics Prize for inventing optical lasers now used in corrective eye surgery and in industry.

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