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Nobel for Directed Evolution Work

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has awarded this year's Nobel Prize in Chemistry to the California Institute of Technology's Frances Arnold for her work on the directed evolution of enzymes and to the University of Missouri's George Smith and the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology's Gregory Winter for their work on phage display, which can direct the evolution of antibodies.

"This has formed the basis for a pharmaceutical revolution," Nobel committee member Sara Snogerup Linse said while announcing the prize, according to New Scientist.

As the Guardian notes, Arnold, who will receive half the prize, introduced random genetic mutations into enzymes, gauged their effects, and selected enzymes suited to a particular environment before beginning the process again. This, it adds, has enabled the development of new enzymes, eliminated the use of some toxic catalysts, and has been applied to the production of both pharmaceuticals and biofuels.

Smith, who will share the other half with Winter, noted that bacteriophages display certain proteins on its surface and used this to screen for variants, Vox says. Winter then applied this approach to evolve new antibodies, Vox adds. This has led to drugs that have since been used to treat diseases like psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, and inflammatory bowel disease.