Mass Spectrometry & Spectroscopy

  • Who Won the 2018 Nobel Prize in Chemistry?

Who Won the 2018 Nobel Prize in Chemistry?

Oct 13 2018 Read 1491 Times

2018 saw 12 Nobel Prize laureates recognised for outstanding achievements across a variety of fields. Ranging from cancer therapy treatments and laser physics to the development of human cell proteins that can actively resolve chemical problems, the individuals were recognised for their contribution towards humankind.

This year, one half of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to Frances H. Arnold for her work in the directed evolution of enzymes. The other half was bestowed on American biologist George P. Smith and British biochemist Sir Gregory P. Winter for their collaborative work on the phage display of peptides and antibodies. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, the institution responsible for choosing the Nobel Laureates in Chemistry, asserts that all three scientists "harnessed the power of evolution" and used the knowledge to benefit humankind.

Directed evolution of enzymes

In 1993, Frances H. Arnold successfully carried out the world's first directed evolution of enzymes. This involved introducing random genetic mutations to proteins that catalyse chemical reactions, then selecting cases where abnormalities proved useful. Over the past 25 years she has refined the techniques and formulas, which have replaced the use of toxic catalysts in applications such as the eco-friendly manufacturing of chemical substances and production of renewable fuels.

“This is a field that was waiting for a Nobel prize,” says Paul Dalby, professor of biochemical engineering and biotechnology at University College London. "People were already using enzymes in industry but only ones they could find in nature that just happened to be good enough – but that was really not many and very problematic to get them to work in industry,” he explains. “When [Arnold] came along, now you can adapt your enzyme to work in an industrial environment, instead of in a cell where it is normally used to working." For humankind, Arnold's discoveries allow scientists to "take natural evolution’s billion-year process or million-year process down into what is now probably less than a week.”

The art of phage display

George P. Smith and Sir Gregory P. Winter, co-winners of the other half of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, were applauded for their work with phage display, an advanced laboratory technique that uses viruses to infect bacteria and evolve new proteins. Smith developed the method in 1985, with Winter following up by using phage display to direct the evolution of antibodies and develop new pharmaceuticals solutions.

Want to know more about the latest scientific developments developed to enhance the existence of humankind? Spotlighting the global issue of air pollution, 'Using Electron Paramagnetic Resonance (EPR) to Track Free Radicals in the Environment' explores how Electron Paramagnetic Resonance is now used to detect carbon-based radicals.

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