The Nobel Prize for chemistry has been awarded to three scientists for their "utterly pioneering" work in using evolution to create new antibodies and enzymes.
As reported in The Guardian, American scientist Frances H. Arnold and George P. Smith and Brit Sir Gregory P. Winter will share the 9m Swedish kronor ($994,000) award, granted by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
Their research has resulted in environmental and medical progress in the development of new fuels and pharmaceuticals, by employing evolutionary process itself.
“This is a field that was waiting for a Nobel Prize,” said Paul Dalby, professor of biochemical engineering at University College London. “Nearly every modern therapy now is an antibody, based on using things like phage display. It is utterly pioneering, and if George Smith hadn’t done the phage display in the first place it would never have happened.”
Arnold is just the fifth woman to be awarded the prize for chemistry. After her induction to the US National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2004, she said, "25 years ago, it was considered the lunatic fringe. Scientists didn’t do that. Gentlemen didn’t do that. But since I’m an engineer and not a gentleman, I had no problem with that."
Winter was, in spite of the brilliant breakthroughs he has made, very humble about his achievements, paying tribute to those whose previous work laid the groundwork for his research.
"Very few research breakthroughs are novel," he told the Associated Press. "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."
The Nobel Prize for physics was awarded to Arthur Ashkin, Gérard Mourou and Donna Strickland, from America, École Polytechnique in France and the University of Waterloo in Canada respectively, for creating groundbreaking tools from beams of light. Strickland's win means she becomes the first female physics laureate for 55 years.
The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to campaigners against rape in warfare, Nadia Murad and Denis Mukwege. Murad is an Iraqi Yazidi who was raped and tortured by Islamic State militants and who went on to campaign for the Yazidis' freedom. Dr Mukwege is a Congolese gynaecologist who, along with colleagues, has treated tens of thousands of victims, to whom he dedicated the award.
Berit Reiss-Andersen, the Nobel committee chair, said the pair have made "a crucial contribution to focusing attention on, and combating, such war crimes."
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