Science

Frances Arnold, George Smith, Gregory Winter win 2018 Nobel Chemistry Prize

Frances Arnold, George Smith, Gregory Winter win 2018 Nobel Chemistry Prize

Why is the work important?

MARTIN: NPR's Nell Greenfieldboyce is here to tell us about the winners.

Dr. Arnold and Dr. Smith are both American, while Dr.

Mr Mourou and Ms Strickland helped develop short and intense laser pulses that have broad industrial and medical applications. Winter, of the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England, adapted the approach to create antibodies that target disease-related targets.

The academy described the process as being similar to biological evolution. He created bacteriophages with billions of different kinds of antibodies displayed on their surfaces. It makes such screening far faster and more efficient.

Americans Frances Arnold and George P Smith will share the prize with Briton Gregory Winter, who is based at Cambridge University.

"At first glance it may seem that the Chemistry Nobel has been "biologised" again".

"There are these tremendous women scientists who are nearly equal numbers in these fields, then all of a sudden we get to professors and it's down to 30 percent or in some places 10 percent", she told AFP.

The other half of the award goes to Winter and Smith, for their work on "phage display of peptides and antibodies". Arnold is only the fifth woman to be awarded the prize for Chemistry.

Experts said the winners' discoveries also had an ecological benefit.

"Twenty-five years ago, [this technology] was considered the lunatic fringe", Arnold explained in a 2014 interview marking her induction to the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

British scientist Dorothy Hodgkin was the next victor, in 1964.




Now let us turn to this year's winners of the Physics Nobels. "We can now use evolution to make things that no human knows how to design", Arnold said in 2016. She studied engineering at Princeton University and received her Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley.

Arnold from the California Institute of Technology was awarded one half of the award, while George P. Smith from the University of Missouri and Sir Gregory P. Winter from the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in the United Kingdom shared the other half.

She and the graduate students working with her soon found that it was much harder to anticipate the effects of designed changes than they had thought.

Arnold directed an enzyme's evolution by introducing genetic mutations to create multiple variants of a chosen enzyme. Prof. Allison is the 19th KFP laureate to receive the Nobel Prize.

Douglas Kell, a professor of bioanalytical science at the University of Manchester, says the prize is "fantastic news". So far, Nobels have been handed out for physics and medicine, and today is chemistry.

Reached at his home in Columbia, Miss., Smith was quick to credit the work of others in earning his prize.

He concludes, "Very few research breakthroughs are novel. Virtually all of them build on what went on before", he said. "The coutnry has a certain attraction, particularly for scientists", she said.

She said that her first reaction on receiving the 5:30 a.m. call from the Nobel committee in Stockholm was disbelief.

They were the wish of Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, who established the organization that provides money for the prizes.

Smith was honored for developing a method, known as phage display, in which a virus that infects bacteria can be used to evolve new proteins.

Commenting on the award, Kevin Harrington, a professor at the Institute of Cancer Research in London, said the work had revolutionized cancer treatment.

"Frances Arnold is a groundbreaking chemist whose research has had far-reaching impact on the development of chemical substances, from pharmaceuticals to biofuels". George Smith developed a technique called phage display. No literature prize will be awarded this year. The first KFP laureates to get the Nobel Prize were Gerd Binnig from Germany and Heinrich Rohrer from Switzerland, who won the KFP in Science in 1984, two years ahead of their Nobel in 1986.