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Press Statement 18-012

Statement on the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2018

NSF-funded researchers share prize for ‘the directed evolution of enzymes'

illustration of three people

Frances H. Arnold, George P. Smith and Gregory P. Winter, the 2018 Nobel laureates in chemistry.

October 3, 2018

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The Nobel Assembly has awarded the 2018 Nobel Prize in chemistry to Frances H. Arnold of California Institute of Technology "for the directed evolution of enzymes" and the other half jointly to George P. Smith of the University of Missouri and Gregory P. Winter at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology "for the phage display of peptides and antibodies." The National Science Foundation (NSF) supported Arnold through many awards over the course of three decades, including a Presidential Young Investigators Award in 1989. NSF also provided funding to Smith to encourage students to integrate mathematics and the life sciences.

NSF Director France Córdova issued the following statement on the Nobel announcement:

The work of this year's Nobel laureates in chemistry demonstrates the importance of exploring fundamental biological phenomena that drive the lives of all people and organisms on Earth. Chemical reactions constantly occur in our bodies, enabled by proteins called enzymes. Frances Arnold modified such enzymes to synthesize everything from pharmaceuticals to biofuels to crop protections for agriculture. Her work, and NSF's support for it, show how cross-disciplinary, convergent work is critical for today's science and engineering ecosystem. I'm thrilled to see her honored for her discoveries.

George P. Smith developed a way to use viruses to infect bacteria, and Gregory P. Winter applied that knowledge to direct changes in antibodies to make new therapeutic treatments. This basic scientific and engineering research has transformed entire industries across the world. Today, we have powerful tools to manufacture chemicals, fight autoimmune disease, cure certain cancers, and improve human health in myriad ways thanks to these engineers and innovators. In addition to his pioneering work, George P. Smith has helped inspire and educate those who follow down a path of innovation. NSF is proud to have supported his endeavors in helping students' STEM development.


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The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2020, its budget is $8.3 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 50,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards.

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