Nobel Prize for chemistry awarded to American, British researchers

05 October, 2018, 19:14 | Author: Kelly Sanders
  • 2018 Nobel Prize in chemistry goes to Americans Frances Arnold and George Smith and Britain's Gregory Winter

Arnold is only the fifth woman to win a chemistry Nobel since the prizes began in 1901. Enzymes are complex proteins that make many chemical reactions possible. It uses a virus to infect bacteria and it can be used to evolve new proteins.

"This award, in my opinion, celebrates and validates the impact of basic research, especially research that is interdisciplinary in its focus", said Pat Okker, dean of the College of Arts and Science, where Smith did his work.

Arnold focused on solar energy research while she was an undergraduate at Princeton, and shifted to biochemistry in graduate school. Winter introduced mutations to make antibodies progressively better at binding to their targets.

Humira, or adalimumab, was the first drug based on Winter's work to win regulatory approval in 2002.

Sales of such medicines, which are given as infusions, are expected to reach some $15 billion this year, according to Thomson Reuters consensus forecasts.

The academy says, in recent years, the phage display method has created antibodies able to do a wide number of health-related tasks.

She was awarded half the prize for performing the first directed evolution of enzymes. "She's not just exploring protein engineering because it's cool, or because she's interested in the origin of life, but she's exploring it because she's trying to make something that's useful to people". The genes are then inserted into bacteria, which then act as the manufacturing machines and produce randomly mutated enzymes.

When Arnold was awakened to receive the good news, she said she was "floored".

Sweden's Royal Academy of Sciences, which chose the winners, said Mr Ashkin, 96, developed "optical tweezers" that can grab tiny particles such as viruses without damaging them.

The academy described the process as being similar to biological evolution. She studied engineering at Princeton University and received her Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley.

She learned she had won when she was "unceremoniously woken up" at 04:00.in her hotel room in Dallas.


"The phone rang, and I was certain it was one of my kids or some emergency, but it wasn't. But since I'm an engineer and not a gentleman, I had no problem with that".

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.

"It is also a personal delight to see Dr Strickland break the 55-year hiatus since a woman has been awarded a Nobel Prize in physics", Moloney said.

Smith was quick to credit the work of others in his prize.

He concludes, "Very few research breakthroughs are novel". It's happenstance. That was certainly the case with my work.

Smith said he and his wife are discussing what to do with the cash prize, which they intend to donate.

Why is the work important?

The woman was receiving his then-experimental antibody treatment. Sir Gregory P. Winter was born in 1951 in Leicester, in the United Kingdom. Some other winners of the Nobel in Chemistry have also been nominated for Physics as well as Physiology or Medicine.

Strickland and the third victor, Frenchman Gerard Mourou of the Ecole Polytechnique and University of MI, developed a way to generate high-intensity, ultra-short bursts of laser light.

No literature prize will be awarded this year, but the Swedish Academy that awards the prestigious prize is still in the limelight.

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