2018 Nobel Prize in Chemistry Awarded to Researchers Using Evolutionary Techniques

Frances H. Arnold, George P. Smith and Gregory P. Winter are the 2018 Nobel Prize recipients for chemistry for their work “harnessing the power of evolution” to create important biological molecules including antibodies, biofuels, and drugs.

Arnold, professor of chemical engineering from California Institute of Technology, was awarded half of the Nobel Prize for her work on directed evolution which is changing the way scientists produce new enzymes. By repeatedly mutating and screening microbes, she developed a technique to selectively breed them to produce new or more efficient enzymes with a range of applications. She shares the prize with Smith of the University of Missouri and Winter of the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge for their research developing and demonstrating a technique known as “phage display”. By inserting genes into a virus, the scientists are able to evolve new types of proteins which can be easily collected and screened because they are displayed on the outercoat of the virus. Winter demonstrated the technique by developing fully functional antibodies that have been used for fighting cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, and other autoimmune disorders.