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Nobel Prize in chemistry awarded to 'power of evolution'

05 October 2018

The 2017 Nobel Prize in chemistry was awarded to researchers Jacques Dubochet, Joachim Frank and Richard Henderson for their work in cryo-electron microscopy, which the academy said "both simplifies and improves the imaging of biomolecules".

Enzymes "are what all we organisms use to make our chemicals". The research honoured Wednesday mimicked that process by inducing mutations in proteins and selecting those that best met the goals of the research. A phage is a virus that is engineered to infect bacteria and take control of the latter's systems, sometimes killing the bacteria in the bargain.

Equally true is that even these stellar scientists have not found a way to invent from scratch proteins that rival the ones we see by the thousands in living cells. And including antibodies - that's what Gregory Winter did. In 1994, for example, he developed antibodies that grab onto cancer cells.

The first medicine based on Smith's and Winter's methods, adalimumab, also known as Humira, was approved by drug officials in 2002. "Antibodies evolved using a method called phage display can combat autoimmune diseases and in some cases cure metastatic cancer". The bacteria would produce a variety of new enzymes, which the researchers screened for the qualities they desired, such as the ability to work faster or under challenging conditions, such as high temperatures or the presence of chemicals.

Arnold was honored for her work on "the directed evolution of enzymes", according to a press release by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

"It was a normal day at the lab", Muna said, talking about how it was when they received the news about their win.

The work he conducted over 10 years came from a "huge web of science, of influences and ideas", Smith said and his contribution built on that work. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall.

She was awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry on October 3.

"And at first, of course, I thought it was one of my sons, with a problem", says Arnold.

In a short speech, she gave credit to her "inspiring" research team.

The Nobel Prize in chemistry has been awarded since 1901 and can include up to three different laureates.

"Very few research breakthroughs are novel".

After repeatedly screening and mutating those microbes, she could use them to build a more powerful version of a desired protein.

Smith said he learned of the prize in a pre-dawn phone call from Stockholm.

Why is the work important? It directly led to the power of monoclonal antibodies being harnessed for treatment of disease.

Winter applied the phage display technique to create pharmaceutical antibodies.

Chemistry is the third of this year's Nobel Prizes.

Meanwhile, scientists from the United States, Canada and France shared the physics prize on Tuesday.

On Monday, James Allison, who spent three years as a postdoctoral fellow at Scripps Research in La Jolla, won the Nobel in physiology or medicine for his work in fighting cancer.

For the first time in decades, the Nobel line-up did not feature a literature award after a rift within the Swedish Academy over a rape scandal involving the husband of a board member left it unable to select a victor. Arnold's win brings the total number of women who have won the chemistry prize to five and follows the awarding of the physics prize to Donna Strickland - the first woman to win the physics prize for 55 years.

Nobel Prize in chemistry awarded to 'power of evolution'