ibusinesslines.com October 23, 2018

Nobel Prize in Chemistry goes to trio of evolutionary scientists

05 October 2018, 08:00 | Justin Tyler

2018 Nobel Prize in Chemistry: Frances H Arnold, George P Smith, Sir Gregory P Winter win for their work on evolutionary science

2018 Nobel Prize in chemistry goes to Americans Frances Arnold and George Smith and Britain's Gregory Winter

Enzymes produced through "directed evolution" in laboratory settings are used to manufacture everything from renewable fuels to pharmaceuticals.

Arnold was only the fifth woman to win a chemistry Nobel since the prizes began in 1901.

Research that engendered new therapies was also recognized with the Nobel for medicine earlier this week when two scientists, James Allison of the USA and Tasuku Honjo of Japan, won the award for work in immune oncology. "Since then, she has refined the methods that are now routinely used to develop new catalysts", said the release. George P. Smith was born in 1941 in Norwalk, Connecticut, and he's now at the University of Missouri, in Columbia, in the United States.

Smith developed a method using a virus that infects bacteria to produce new proteins while Winter used the same phage display technique to engineer the evolution of antibodies, with the aim of producing more effective medicines.

Marie Curie, Joliot-Curie's mother, shared half of the prize with her husband and fellow physicist Pierre Curie in 1911 for "the extraordinary services they have rendered by their joint researches on the radiation phenomena discovered by Professor Henri Becquerel". Today, phage display of antibodies can be used to treat diseases as varied as metastatic cancer, inflammatory bowel diseases and anthrax poisoning. Their findings enabled large-scale production of specific antibodies, which have made new treatments possible for autoimmune diseases, cancer, and other conditions. Smith realised that this could be handy: for example if it wasn't known what protein a particular gene gave rise to, it could be put into a phage and the mystery protein would appear on the surface and could be identified.

"I think of what I do as copying nature's design process", Arnold said in an interview with NobelPrize.org.

- The Nobel Prize in literature has been postponed.

Her approach, "directed evolution", mimics the same evolution that turned dinosaurs into birds, but it works much more quickly.

Arnold received her P.h.D. from the University of California, Berkeley.

The Nobel Prize in chemistry was awarded on Wednesday to two researchers in the United States and one in Britain.

The Nobel Prize in Economic Science will be announced on Monday in Sweden, while the Nobel Peace Prize will be announced on Friday this week.

"Pretty much every Nobel laureate understands that what he's getting the prize for is built on many precedents, a great number of ideas and research that he is exploiting because he is at the right place at the right time", Smith said in an early morning interview with the Associated Press.

"Very few research breakthroughs are novel".

In the 1980s, Arnold tried to rebuild enzymes, but because they are very complex molecules built from different amino acids that can be infinitely combined, she found it hard to remodel the enzymes' genes in order to give them new properties.

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

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.

"Half an hour before [the results were announced online ] we found out about that we had won, Dr Honjo came in and asked us to delay a biweekly report because we'd just won the Nobel Prize in medicine".

Arthur Ashkin became the oldest Nobel Prize laureate at 96, while Donna Strickland of the University of Waterloo in Canada became only the third woman to win a physics Nobel.

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