“Revolution based on evolution” honored with chemistry Nobel
Three scientists who put evolution to good use in the lab have won the 2018 Nobel Prize for Chemistry. One half of the award goes to Frances Arnold of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, and the other half to George Smith of the University of Missouri in Columbia and Gregory Winter of the Medical Research Council’s Laboratory of Molecular Biology, in Cambridge, United Kingdom.
The three laureates “have applied principles of Darwin in test tubes, and used this approach to develop new types of chemicals for the greatest benefit of humankind,” Claes Gustafsson, the chair of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry, said this morning.
In 1993, Arnold “conducted the first directed evolution of enzymes,” says a press release from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences issued this morning. “The uses of her enzymes include more environmentally friendly manufacturing of chemical substances, such as pharmaceuticals, and the production of renewable fuels for a greener transport sector.”
George Smith, meanwhile, in 1985 developed “an elegant method known as phage display, where a bacteriophage – a virus that infects bacteria – can be used to evolve new proteins,” the press release says. “Gregory Winter used phage display for the directed evolution of antibodies, with the aim of producing new pharmaceuticals. The first one based on this method, adalimumab, was approved in 2002 and is used for rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and inflammatory bowel diseases. Since then, phage display has produced anti-bodies that can neutralise toxins, counteract autoimmune diseases and cure metastatic cancer.”
This story will be updated.