Trio win Nobel Chemistry Prize for research harnessing evolution

Arnold, only the fifth woman to win a chemistry Nobel, was awarded half of the 9 million Swedish crown ($1 million) prize while fellow Smith and Winter shared the other half. "They have used the molecular understanding we have of the evolutionary process and recreated the process in their labs", the head of the Academy's Nobel Chemistry committee, Claes Gustafsson, said of the winners.

"Very few research breakthroughs are novel. It's happenstance. That was certainly the case with my work", he said.

The 2018 Nobel Prize for Chemistry was awarded to scientists Frances Arnold, George Smith and Gregory Winter for research using directed evolution to produce enzymes for new chemicals and pharmaceuticals, the award-giving body said on Wednesday.

Smith, 77, developed a method to evolve new proteins and Winter used the method to evolve antibodies, which are disease-fighting proteins in the blood. "Mine was an idea in a line of research that built very naturally on the lines of research that went before". Their findings enabled large-scale production of specific antibodies, which have made new treatments possible for autoimmune diseases, cancer, and other conditions.

The first drug based on this work is used to fight rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and inflammatory bowel disease, the Associated Press reported, citing the academy.

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Alan Boyd, president of Britain's Faculty of Pharmaceutical Medicine, hailed the award.

"Evolution is the most powerful engineering method in the world, and we should make use of it to find new biological solutions to problems", she said. Donna Strickland, from the University of Waterloo in Ontario, shared the physics award on Tuesday.

This was the 110th Nobel Prize awarded for chemistry since 1901. Strickland had worked with the third victor, Frenchman Gerard Mourou of the Ecole Polytechnique and the University of MI. The Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, honoring the man who endowed the five Nobel Prizes, will be revealed Monday.

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"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 academy plans to announce both the 2018 and the 2019 victor next year - although the head of the Nobel Foundation has said the body must fix its tarnished reputation first. Jean-Claude Arnault, a French citizen who is a major cultural figure in Sweden, is at the center of a sex abuse and financial crimes scandal that has tarnished the academy and forced it to take a year off in its deliberations.

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