World / Science & Health

Chemistry Nobel goes to three for directed evolution leading to better pharmaceuticals and renewable fuels

Reuters

Scientists Frances Arnold, George P. Smith and Sir Gregory P. Winter won the 2018 Nobel Prize in chemistry for research using directed evolution to produce enzymes and antibodies for new chemicals and pharmaceuticals, the award-giving body said on Wednesday.

Arnold — who is only the fifth woman to ever win a Nobel Prize in chemistry — was awarded half of the prize of 9 million Swedish crowns ($1 million), while fellow American Smith and Winter of Britain shared the other half.

“This year’s Nobel Laureates in Chemistry have been inspired by the power of evolution and used the same principles — genetic change and selection — to develop proteins that solve mankind’s chemical problems,” the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said in a statement.

Arnold is the second woman to win a Nobel Prize this year, after Canada’s Donna Strickland shared the physics award on Tuesday.

The uses of enzymes, developed by Arnold, include more environmentally friendly manufacturing of chemical substances, such as pharmaceuticals, and the production of renewable fuels for a greener transport sector.

Smith developed a method using a virus that infects bacteria to produce new proteins, and Winter used the same method for the directed evolution of antibodies, with the aim of producing new pharmaceuticals.

The prizes for achievements in science, literature and peace were created and funded in the will of Swedish dynamite inventor and businessman Alfred Nobel and have been awarded since 1901.

For the first time in decades, the Nobel line-up will not feature a literature award this year after a rift within the Swedish Academy over a rape scandal involving the husband of a board member left it unable to select a winner.

The science and peace prizes are selected by other bodies. Chemistry is the third of this year’s Nobel Prizes.