Longtime MU Professor George Smith Wins 2018 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Gwen Vasquez
October 5, 2018

'This year's nobel laureates have been able to direct evolution to make proteins with new and useful properties, ' said Claes Gustafsson, chairman of the Nobel committee for chemistry, at the announcement of the prize in Stockholm, Sweden. Enzymes produced through "directed evolution" in laboratory settings are used to manufacture everything from renewable fuels to pharmaceuticals.

Smith and Winter were honored for their work on the "phage display of peptides and antibodies", which has led to the production of antibodies used to counteract toxins and in some autoimmune and cancer therapies.

Arnold is the first Princeton alumna (female graduate of either the undergraduate program or the Graduate School) to win a Nobel Prize, and the second woman associated with the University to win a Nobel Prize; the first was Toni Morrison, Princeton's Robert F. Goheen Professor in the Humanities, Emerita, who won the 1993 Nobel Prize in Literature. She conducted the first directed evolution of enzymes, which are proteins that catalyze chemical reactions.

Winter, of the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, then harnessed that method and used it to direct the evolution of new antibodies - immune proteins that bind to and neutralize pathogens such as bacteria or viruses - with the aim of making new drugs. Smith won for developing a phage display method where bacteriophages evolve the new proteins. It has since gone on to become a blockbuster, with sales previous year of $18 billion.

Arnold's work has placed her at the forefront of enzyme research. The field has resulted in new treatments from Merck & Co., Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. and other drugmakers for lung cancer and other hard-to-treat tumors. As The Guardian's Davis explains, once Smith inserted a specific gene into a phage, he could identify the protein that emerged on its surface and gain a better understanding of the relationship between certain genes and proteins.

"The power of evolution is revealed through the diversity of life".

She conducted her Nobel-winning research while still a PhD student working with Mourou in 1985 at the University of Rochester in NY.

The peace prize victor will be announced on Friday, followed by economics on Monday.

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Smith, reached at his home in Columbia, Missouri, was quick to credit the work of others for his prize.

"Very few research breakthroughs are novel".

Professor Patrick Maxwell, Regius Professor of Physic and head of the School of Clinical Medicine at the University of Cambridge, said: "I am absolutely delighted that Sir Greg's work has been recognised with a Nobel Prize".

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

On Monday, the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet gave this year's medicine award to cancer researchers James P. Allison and Tasuku Honjo.

Of the pre-dawn phone call from Stockholm informing him of his win, Smith said: "It's a standard joke that someone with a Swedish accent calls and says 'You won!' But there was so much static on the line, I knew it wasn't any of my friends". Scientists from the United States, Canada and France shared the physics prize Tuesday.

Nobel Prizes have been awarded to members of the University of Cambridge for significant advances as diverse as the discovery of the structure of DNA, the development of a national income accounting system, the mastery of an epic and narrative psychological art and the discovery of penicillin.

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