Sixty-two-year old Frances H. Arnold has won one half of the Nobel Prize 2018 in Chemistry. This is “for the directed evolution of enzymes”. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded the other half jointly to George P. Smith and Sir Gregory P. Winter ”for the phage display of peptides and antibodies”.

Dr Arnold is only the fifth woman to win a Chemistry Nobel. This is the second Nobel Prize win for women this year. Canada’s Donna Strickland earned the award for Physics.

Who is Frances H. Arnold?

Dr Frances Hamilton Arnold, an American scientist and engineer, was born on July 25, 1956. She was born to nuclear physicist William Howard Arnold and graduated from Allderdice High School in 1974. In 1979, she graduated from Princeton University after studying mechanical and aerospace engineering. She then earned a PhD in chemical engineering from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1985.

  • Dr Arnold, through her thesis work, investigated affinity chromatography techniques. She has also performed postdoctoral research at UC Berkeley and Caltech. 
  • In 2016, she became the first woman to win the Millennium Technology Prize. She earned it for pioneering directed evolution.
  • Dr Arnold works as the Linus Pauling Professor of Chemical Engineering, Bioengineering, and Biochemistry at the California Institute of Technology. Here, she also studies evolution and its applications in science, medicine, chemicals and energy.

Dr Arnold is a breast cancer survivor. She was diagnosed with the disease in 2005. 

Work

  • She is a member of the Advisory Board of the DOE-funded Joint BioEnergy Institute and the Packard Fellowships in Science and Engineering.
  • Also, she serves on the President’s Advisory Council of the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST).
  • At present, Dr Arnold serves as a judge for The Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering.
  • She has also worked with the National Academy of Science’s Science & Entertainment Exchange and helped Hollywood screenwriters appropriately portray science topics.
  • The scientist is co-inventor on over 40 US patents.
  • She co-founded Gevo Inc. in 2015, which is a company to make fuels and chemicals from renewable resources. She is also the co-founder of Provivi, a company to develop crop protection technology.
  • Dr Arnold has developed methods of directed evolution to create useful biological systems, including enzymes, metabolic pathways, genetic regulatory circuits and organisms.

The Prize

A press release from the Academy read: “The 2018 Nobel Laureates in Chemistry have taken control of evolution and used it for purposes that bring the greatest benefit to humankind. Enzymes produced through directed evolution are used to manufacture everything from biofuels to pharmaceuticals. Antibodies evolved using a method called phage display can combat autoimmune diseases and in some cases cure metastatic cancer.”

Dr Arnold was awarded half of the 9 million Swedish crown ($1 million) prize while Smith and Winter shared the other half.

“One half of this year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry is awarded to Frances H. Arnold. In 1993, she conducted the first directed evolution of enzymes, which are proteins that catalyse chemical reactions. Since then, she has refined the methods that are now routinely used to develop new catalysts,” mentioned the release.

Picture Credit: Science Meets Business

Also Read: Donna Strickland Is First Woman Physics Nobel Winner In 55 Yrs

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