Nobel Chemistry 2018 winners
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has decided to award the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2018 with one half to Frances H. Arnold and the other half jointly to George P. Smith and Sir Gregory P. Winter.
Three scientists shared this year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry for tapping the power of evolutionary biology to design molecules with a range of practical uses. Those include new drugs, more efficient and less toxic reactions in the manufacture of chemicals and plant-derived fuels to replace oil, gas and coal extracted from the ground.
Prize money of $1 million went to Frances H. Arnold, a professor of chemical engineering at the California Institute of Technology. She is only the fifth woman to win a chemistry Nobel and the first since 2009.
The other half of the prize is shared by George P. Smith, an emeritus professor of biological sciences at the University of Missouri, and Gregory P. Winter, a biochemist at the M.R.C. Laboratory of Molecular Biology in England.“I always wanted to be a protein engineer,” Dr. Arnold said in an interview. “I wanted to be an engineer of the biological world.”
At first, Dr. Arnold attempted “rational design,” using logic and knowledge of how proteins function to try to create new enzymes — proteins that act as catalysts for chemical reactions. But enzymes are large, complicated molecules some consisting of thousands of amino acids — and it is hard to figure out how a shift in one twist of the molecule affects how it works.
In desperation, she said, she turned to evolution.
“I copied nature’s inventions, this wonderful process of evolution, to breed molecules like you breed cats and dogs,” she said.
In her initial experiments in the 1990s, she was able to find an enzyme more than 200 times as effective as the one she started with by the third generation. The next innovation, as highlighted in materials supplied by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, came from Willem P.C. Stemmer, a Dutch researcher who came up with a way to generate a wider assortment of enzyme variants more quickly.
The technique, called DNA shuffling, cut apart different versions of a gene and mixed pieces into a new variant — sort of the molecular equivalent of the genetic mixing in the offspring of two animals. (Nobels are only awarded to living scientists; Dr. Stemmer died in 2013.)
These techniques have led to stain-removing enzymes in laundry detergents and promising advances in the production of biofuels.Dr. Smith and Dr. Winter were honored for another corner of synthetic biology, where they harnessed the power of bacteriophages — viruses that infect bacteria — for applications that eventually contributed to novel drugs that treat a range of diseases.
source:nobelprize,new york times