3 scientists awarded Nobel Chemistry Prize for work in evolutionary science

2018 Nobel Prize in chemistry goes to Americans Frances Arnold and George Smith and Britain's Gregory Winter

The winners "have taken control of evolution and used it for purposes that bring the greatest benefit to humankind", the Nobel committee said. "In their laboratories, our laureates this year have been able to direct evolution, to steer it, which has led to new chemical tools that can be used in everything from environmentally friendly detergents to the creation of new biofuels and pharmaceuticals". "Gregory Winter used phage display for the directed evolution of antibodies, with the aim of producing new pharmaceuticals".

The other half of this year's Nobel Prize for Chemistry will be shared by George Smith and Gregory Winter.

Chemistry is the third of this year's Nobels and comes after the prizes for Medicine and Physics were awarded earlier this week.

Meanwhile, Smith's major contribution to the field of chemistry began in 1985 when he developed phage display, an elegant method where bacteriophage - a virus that infects bacteria - could be used to evolve new proteins.

Sold as Humira in the US and under other brand names elsewhere, it brought AbbVie $18.4 billion in revenue a year ago, in part because of its price: about $5,000 a month without insurance coverage in the U.S. The idea of reducing people's suffering is what pushes me forward."This current stage of research deals with improving suggested therapies and also with the issue that some patients are unresponsive to the treatment, particularly older patients", she added. Today, phage display of antibodies can be used to treat diseases as varied as metastatic cancer, inflammatory bowel diseases and anthrax poisoning. Her tailored enzymes have become important for making medications and other valuable substances like renewable fuels. Smith used them to create a tool that would help identify antibodies, molecules in the body that identify invading pathogens, that would be the most useful for binding to molecules that are associated with certain diseases.

In a 2014 interview with NPR, Arnold acknowledged the sexist barriers and stereotypes that female scientists face, but she encouraged ignoring and overcoming them. That's when she made the shift to what is known as directed evolution.

"Her work is incredible", Matt Hartings, an associate chemistry professor at American University, told The Associated Press.

Allison is the first MD Anderson scientist to receive the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, according to MD Anderson.

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He concludes, "Very few research breakthroughs are novel".

The Nobel Prize in medicine was awarded Monday to two researchers from the United States and Japan for advances in discovering how the body's immune system can fight off the scourge of cancer.

"Directed evolution allows me to rewrite the code of life and particularly to do it to solve human problems", Arnold said of her work in a video released by the National Medal of Technology & Innovation in 2013.

After repeatedly screening and mutating those microbes, she could use them to build a more powerful version of a desired protein.

MARTIN: All right. NPR's Nell Greenfieldboyce with the news of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry.

Smith said he and his wife are discussing what to do with the cash prize, which they intend to donate.

The prizes for achievements in science, literature and peace were created and funded in the will of Swedish dynamite inventor and businessman Alfred Nobel and have been awarded since 1901.

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