This year, the Nobel Prizes have been awarded to four American scientists and one to a British one for their achievements that have conferred the greatest benefit to humankind. Their work and discoveries range from cancer therapy and laser physics to developing proteins that can solve humankind’s chemical problems.
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry: Frances H. Arnold, George P. Smith ( both American), Sir Gregory P. Winter ( British).
F. Arnold is a professor of chemical engineering, biochemistry and bioengineering at the California Institute of Technology, where she is also the director of the Donna and Benjamin M. Rosen Bioengineering Center.
Arnold works with enzymes, proteins that catalyze chemical reactions. In 1993, she became the first person to direct the evolution of enzymes, and she has since refined those methods. Arnold’s work has led to greener practices in the transportation sector and cleaner manufacturing of pharmaceuticals.
The other half of the prize went jointly to George Smith and Gregory Winter for their work in phage display, which is a process to evolve new proteins. George Smith is a Professor Emeritus with the Division of Biological Sciences at the University of Missouri. Winter conducted his research with the Medical Research Council Laboratory in Cambridge, England.
Smith developed phage display to evolve proteins. In this process, new proteins are evolved using bacteriophage. Winter built on this work by using phage display to evolve antibodies in order to develop pharmaceuticals. Since then the field of phage display has produced proteins which can neutralize toxins, counteract autoimmune diseases and cure metastatic cancer.
The Nobel Prize in Physics.
Half of this prize went to Arthur Ashkin for his work on ‘ optical tweezers’.
Ashkin 96, is the oldest laureate ever. A graduate of Columbia and Cornell, he has spent his career researching microwaves, nonlinear optics and laser trapping at Bell Laboratories in New Jersey. He developed ‘ optical tweezers’ that can grab tiny particles such as viruses without damaging them. It is worth noticing that an ‘ an old dream of science fiction’ had been to use the radiation pressure of light to move objects.
The other half of the physics award went jointly to Donna Strickland (Canadian) and Gerard Mouron ( French).
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine:
The award went to Jim Allison for his work in cancer therapy. Allison is the chair of Immunology and executive director of the immunotherapy platform at the University of Texas.
Allison established an entirely new principle for cancer therapy by showing how human immune system could have the ability to attack cancer cells.
This American scientist found a way how to ‘put the brakes’ on the immune system to allow it to fight cancer. His work led to new cancer treatments.
Written by: Anna Pędziwiatr