Scientists have been applauding the winners of the Nobel chemistry prize, saying that that it highlights the practical role chemistry plays in our daily lives.
Carol Robinson, president of Britain‘s Royal Society of Chemistry, says the prize shows how chemistry contributes “to many areas of our lives including pharmaceuticals, detergents, green catalysis and biofuels.”
Robinson said Wednesday that directed evolution of enzymes and antibody technology “are now transforming medicine.”
Douglas Kell, a professor of bioanalytical science at the University of Manchester, says the prize is “fantastic news. Really well deserved.
Nobels commonly go to folk who develop methods that revolutionize practice or understanding. These methods are entirely general and have done both.”
Nobel chemistry laureate George Smith, reached at his home in Columbia, Missouri, was quick to credit the work of others in his prize.
“Pretty much every Nobel laureate understands that what he’s getting the prize for is built on many precedents, a great number of ideas and research that he is exploiting because he is at the right place at the right time,” he told The Associated Press.
“Very few research breakthroughs are novel. Virtually all of them build on what went on before. It’s happenstance. That was certainly the case with my work. Mine was an idea in a line of research that built very naturally on the lines of research that went before.”
Smith said he learned of the prize in a pre-dawn phone call from Stockholm. “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,” he said.
He said he has “no idea” what he’ll do with the prize money. “We’re going to give it away, I think. But we’ll think hard how we’ll do it. It’s not just the money, it has a meaning well beyond the money.”
Smith, 77, was a professor for 40 years at the University of Missouri at the Division of Biological Sciences.
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.
Frances Arnold of the California Institute of Technology was awarded half the prize for conducting the first directed evolution of enzymes, leading to more environmentally friendly manufacturing of chemicals, including drugs, and in the production of renewable fuels.
George Smith of the University of Missouri and Gregory Winter of the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England, share the other half of the prize. Smith developed a new way to evolve proteins and Winter used the method for evolving antibodies with the aim of producing new drugs.
The first drug based on this work is used against rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and inflammatory bowel disease, the academy said.
The Nobel Prize in chemistry has been awarded to two researchers in the United States and one in Britain.
Half of the 9-million-kronor ($1.01 million) prize was designated for Frances Arnold of Caltech in Pasadena for work that has led to the development of new biofuels and pharmaceuticals.
The other half of the prize will be shared by George Smith of the University of Missouri and Gregory Winter of the MRC Laboratory in Cambridge. They were honored for “phage display of peptides and antibodies.”
The Nobel Prize in chemistry, which honors researchers for advances in studying how molecules combine and interact, is being announced Wednesday by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
The 9-million-kronor ($1.01 million) chemistry prize is the last of this year’s scientific Nobel Prizes.
Last year’s prize went to researchers in the United States, Switzerland and Britain who developed a microscope technique that lets scientists see details of the molecules that drive life.
The winner of the Nobel Peace Prize is to be announced Friday. No literature prize will be awarded this year. The Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, honoring the man who endowed the five Nobel Prizes, will be revealed Monday.
The medicine prize was awarded Monday to American and Japanese researchers. Scientists from the United States, Canada and France shared the physics prize Tuesday.