Caltech's Frances Arnold Becomes Fifth Woman to be Awarded Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Published : Wednesday, October 3, 2018 | 5:33 AM

Frances Arnold. Image courtesy Caltech

Frances H. Arnold, 62, a Caltech scientist and engineer, has been awarded one half of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2018 and has become only the fifth woman to win the prize.

The Royal Swedish Academy said in today’s announcement that this year’s prize “awards a revolution based on evolution” and has been awarded to scientists who “applied the principles of Darwin in the test tube.”

With Arnold, the Academy awarded the other half of the prize jointly to George P. Smith of the University of Missouri and Sir Gregory P. Winter of the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in the United Kingdom.

In a statement, the Academy said that the “2018 Nobel Laureates in Chemistry have taken control of evolution and used it for purposes that bring the greatest benefit to humankind.”

In 1993, Frances H. 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.

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.

She is the Linus Pauling Professor of Chemical Engineering, Bioengineering, and Biochemistry at the California Institute of Technology, where she studies evolution and its applications in science, medicine, chemicals, and energy.

Arnold will receive one half of the prize amount of 9 million Swedish krona, which is about $1 million.

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