The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences says the three researchers who were awarded this year's Nobel Prize in chemistry "harnessed the power of evolution" to develop enzymes and antibodies that have led to new pharmaceuticals and biofuels.
Arnold, of the California Institute of Technology, was recognized for performing the first-ever "directed evolution" of enzymes - proteins that catalyze chemical reactions - to see if they could be tailored to work differently, for example in new environments.
The three scientists helped develop proteins that "solve humankind's chemical problems", the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said, adding that they "have taken control of evolution and used it for purposes that bring the greatest benefit to humankind". The methods he has developed have produced antibodies that can neutralize toxins, counteract autoimmune diseases and cure metastatic cancer.
'Today's Nobel prize in chemistry highlights the tremendous role of chemistry in contributing to many areas of our lives including pharmaceuticals, detergents, green catalysis and biofuels.
The 9-million-kronor ($1.01 million) chemistry prize is the last of this year's scientific Nobel Prizes.
The other half will be jointly split between George Smith from the University of Missouri, US and Gregory Winter from the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in the United Kingdom who developed a technique called phage display. A phage is a virus that can infect bacteria and trick them into reproducing it. Smith found that it was possible to tinker with the genetic material of a phage to change the molecules stuck on its outside. Genes code for proteins, and Smith got his phages to display those proteins on their outer coats.
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American Chemical Society president Peter Dorhout praised the Nobel winners, saying "the laureates have used chemistry to accelerate the evolution of natural biological molecules that act as the critical machinery for living organisms".
The first drug based on this work is used against rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and inflammatory bowel disease, the academy said.
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"One half of this year's Nobel Prize in Chemistry is awarded to Frances H. Arnold".
The Nobel Prize in Literature has been postponed because of the institution that chooses the laureate being embroiled in a sexual assault scandal. Donna Strickland, from the University of Waterloo in Ontario, shared the physics award on Tuesday.
On Monday, James P. Allison and Tsuku Honjo were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology/ Medicine for discovering that human body's immune system can be used to attack cancer cells.