US, UK researchers win Nobel Prize in Chemistry

By Sena Guler

ANKARA (AA) – The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2018 was awarded on Wednesday to three scientists, two of them from the U.S. and one from the U.K., for their works on evolutionary biology, announced the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

In a statement, the academy said it has awarded one half of the nine million Swedish kronor ($1.01 million) prize to Frances H. Arnold, 62, “for directed evolution of enzymes” and the other half jointly to George P. Smith, 79, and Gregory P. Winter, 67, “for the phage display of peptides and antibodies”.

“In 1993, she [Arnold] conducted the first directed evolution of enzymes, which are proteins that catalyze chemical reactions. Since then, she has refined the methods that are now routinely used to develop new catalysts,” it added.

“The uses of Frances Arnold’s enzymes include more environmentally friendly manufacturing of chemical substances, such as pharmaceuticals, and the production of renewable fuels for a greener transport sector,” read the statement.

Arnold is the fifth woman to win the prize.

It also said in 1985, Smith, 79, “developed an elegant method known as phage display, where a bacteriophage – a virus that infects bacteria – can be used to evolve new proteins,” while Winter, 67, “used the phage display for the directed evolution of antibodies, with the aim of producing new pharmaceuticals”.

Stating that the first medication — adalimumab — based on the method was approved in 2002, and is used for rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and inflammatory bowel diseases, it added: “Since then, phage display has produced antibodies that can neutralize toxins, counteract autoimmune diseases and cure metastatic cancer.”

Arnold works at California Institute of Technology in the U.S., while George P. Smith works at the University of Missouri in the U.S. and Gregory P. Winter at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in the U.K.

The 2015 prize went to Aziz Sancar, a Turkish-born chemist now working at the University of North Carolina in the U.S.