Frances H. Arnold became the first American woman to win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2018 “for the directed evolution of enzymes”. Dr. Arnold is a Linus Pauling Professor of Chemical Engineering, Bioengineering and Biochemistry and directs the Rosen Bioengineering Center at California Institute of Technology (Caltech). She co-founded the biofuel company Gevo in 2005 and Provivi in 2013 to develop biocatalytic processes for agricultural and specialty chemicals.
Frances Arnold studied mechanical and aerospace engineering at Princeton University, where she graduated in 1979. She completed her doctorate in chemical engineering in 1985 at University of California, Berkeley.
Dr. Arnold pioneered methods of “directed evolution” to create new proteins not found in nature, a process that involves inducing random mutations and screening the resulting enzymes for sought-after properties. The work of Arnold and her team has led to the production of enzymes that function in airless environments so that biofuels can be produced without expensive air-circulating equipment. Some the proteins developed by her team are reducing the reliance of industry on toxic chemicals in manufacturing. Arnold’s techniques have played a part in Merck’s development of the diabetes drug Januvia. Her work on developing proteins that bind to neurotransmitters and be detectable by MRI are being used for research in Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease and depression.
Arnold was one of three awardees. She was the sole awardee "for the directed evolution of enzymes," and received half the prize share. George P. Smith and Sir Gregory P. Winter split the remaining half of the prize for their work on phage display of peptides and antibodies.
Arnold received her doctorate in chemical engineering. Her thesis work was conducted in the lab of Harvey Warren Blanch and investigated affinity chromatography techniques.
She received B.S. degrees in mechanical and aerospace engineering with a focus on solar energy generation.
Documentaries, videos and podcasts
- Frances H. Arnold GroupThe lab develops evolutionary protein design methods to elucidate principles of biological design and generate novel and useful enzymes and organisms.
- Nobel Prize in Chemistry
- Sir Gregory Paul WinterSir Gregory Paul Winter is a British biochemist known for the development of the first humanized antibodies, directed evolution of antibodies and phage display technology for the development of human therapeutic antibodies. He won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2018.
- George P. Smith (American biochemist)George P. Smith is an American biochemist known for his development of phage display and for winning the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2018.