Published: Wed, October 03, 2018
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Chemistry Nobel 2018 Winners Include Fifth Female Laureate Ever

Chemistry Nobel 2018 Winners Include Fifth Female Laureate Ever

The 2018 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to Frances H. Arnold and the other half jointly to George P. Smith and Sir Gregory P. Winter on Wednesday for their work harnessing the power of evolution to develop new proteins used in drugs and medical treatments.

"The 2018 Nobel Laureates in Chemistry have taken control of evolution and used it for purposes that bring the greatest benefit to humankind", the Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences said.

George Smith of the University of Missouri in Colombia and Gregory Winter of the Medical Research Council's Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, United Kingdom, share the other half of the award for their research on the directed evolution of antibodies, proteins that the immune system uses to recognize invaders.

"They have applied the principles of Darwin in test tubes". In a nutshell, Arnold introduced genetic mutations into enzymes, and then looked to see what effect the mutations had.

Her method of creating new proteins with desired properties is being used to convert renewable resources like sugar cane into biofuels, and to make more environmentally friendly chemical substances, improving everyday products such as laundry and dishwashing detergents to enhance their performance in cold temperatures.

In this May 24, 2016 file photo, USA biochemical engineer Frances Arnold receives the Millennium Technology Prize 2016 during the awards ceremony in Helsinki, Finland.

Experts said the developments for which the winners won the 2018 prize can be more ecological than many other chemical processes. That made it possible to develop, for example, new kinds of fuels derived from plants, new processes for making industrial chemicals without toxic metals or organic solvents, and new pharmaceuticals. Arnold is one of the few people to be a member of the exclusive National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Medicine and the National Academy of Engineering.

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. This technique uses bacteria-infecting viruses to drive the evolution of new proteins and antibodies.

The first drug based on this work is used against rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and inflammatory bowel disease, the academy said.

Chemistry is the third of this year's Nobels and comes after the prizes for Medicine and Physics were awarded earlier this week.

Arnold, Smith and Winter will receive their prize from Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustaf at a formal ceremony in Stockholm on December 10, the anniversary of Nobel's 1896 death. This story will be updated.

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