The Nobel Prize in chemistry will be shared by Frances H Arnold, George P Smith and Sir Gregory P Winter for their work on developing proteins that “solve humankind’s chemical problems,” the Royal Swedish Academy has announced.
Half of the 9-million-kronor ($1.01m) prize was designated for Frances Arnold of Caltech in Pasadena for conducting the first directed evolution of enzymes, leading to more environment friendly manufacturing of chemicals, including drugs, and in the production of renewable fuels.
The other half of the prize will be shared by George Smith of the University of Missouri and Gregory Winter of the MRC Laboratory in Cambridge.
They were honoured for “phage display of peptides and antibodies”.
The Nobel Laureates have taken “control of evolution and used it for purposes that bring the greatest benefits to human kind”, the committe said on its website on Tuesday.
The first drug based on this work is used against rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and inflammatory bowel disease, the academy said.
Frances Arnold becomes the fifth woman to win the Nobel prize in Chemistry.
“Twenty five years ago, it was considered the lunatic fringe. Scientists didn’t do that. Gentlemen didn’t do that. But since I’m an engineer and not a gentleman, I had no problem with that,” Arnold said in an interview in 2014.
Nobel chemistry laureate George Smith, reached at his home in Columbia, Missouri, was quick to credit the work of others in his prize.
“Pretty much every Nobel laureate understands that what he’s getting the prize for is built on many precedents, a great number of ideas and research that he is exploiting because he is at the right place at the right time,” he told The Associated Press.
“Very few research breakthroughs are novel. Virtually all of them build on what went on before. It’s happenstance. That was certainly the case with my work. Mine was an idea in a line of research that built very naturally on the lines of research that went before.
Chemistry is the third of this year’s Nobels and comes after the prizes for Medicine and Physics were awarded earlier this week.
The winner of the Nobel Peace Prize is to be announced on Friday. No literature prize will be awarded this year.
The Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, honouring the man who endowed the five Nobel Prizes, will be revealed on Monday.
The medicine prize was awarded Monday to American and Japanese researchers. Scientists from the United States, Canada and France shared the physics prize on Tuesday.