On Wednesday, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded the 2018 Nobel Prize in Chemistry to two Americans and one British chemist for research that has "taken control of evolution and used it for purposes that bring the greatest benefit to humankind." Half of the award and $1 million prize goes to Frances H. Arnold at the California Institute of Technology for conducting "the first directed evolution of enzymes," the academy said. George P. Smith at the University of Missouri in Columbia and Sir Gregory P. Winter at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge were jointly awarded the other half for using "phage display" to help produce new pharmaceuticals.
Arnold is just the fifth woman to be awarded a Nobel Prize in Chemistry, and her enzymes have been used to create "more environmentally friendly manufacturing of chemical substances, such as pharmaceuticals, and the production of renewable fuels for a greener transport sector," the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said. The first drug created with the evolved proteins ushered in by Smith and Winter, adalimumab, was approved to treat rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, and inflammatory bowel diseases in 2002, and "since then, phage display has produced antibodies that can neutralize toxins, counteract autoimmune diseases, and cure metastatic cancer."