Science, Technology, and Social Media

Americans Are Three For Three In 2018 Nobel Science Prizes


by Evie Fordham

Americans Frances H. Arnold and George Smith will share the 2018 Nobel Prize in chemistry with a British scientist, meaning that at least one American is being honored for each Nobel science prize, according to a Wednesday announcement.

Arnold and Smith are being honored for their research into producing enzymes and harnessing them to treat rheumatoid arthritis, autoimmune diseases and even cancer, according to the Royal Swedish Academy of Science’s Wednesday press release.

“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 press release stated.

Arnold will receive half of the roughly million-dollar prize, while Smith and British scientist Sir Gregory Winter will split the other half.

Arnold is being honored for her research including conducting “the first directed evolution of enzymes, which are proteins that catalyse chemical reactions,” the Nobel press release stated.

“I wanted to rewrite the code of life, to make new molecular machines that would solve human problems,” Arnold told NPR in 2014.

An engineer by training, she never dreamed she would achieve one of chemistry’s highest honors. Arnold is a professor of chemical engineering, bioengineering and biochemistry at the California Institute of Technology.

The proteins that Arnold designs “do these really off-the-wall things in record time,” Matt Hartings, who teaches chemistry at American University, said according to ABC7. “Her work is incredible.”

Smith is receiving the prize for his method of “phage display,” which allows a virus that infects bacteria, called a “bacteriophage,” to be used to evolve new proteins, according to the Nobel press release. Winter used Smith’s work to produce pharmaceuticals and treatments that help people affected by ailments from psoriasis to cancer.

Smith is professor emeritus of biological sciences at the University of Missouri, Columbia.

The other Americans honored with 2018 Nobel prizes are Arthur Ashkin for physics and James P. Allison for medicine or physiology. The Nobel laureates will receive their awards at a Dec. 10 ceremony.

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