STOCKHOLM — The Latest on the awarding of the Nobel Prizes (all times local):
Cambridge University scientist Greg Winter says he was staring at his computer wondering how he would ever finish multiple projects when the phone rang.
He was “a bit rocky” early Wednesday after a feast the night before at Trinity College and was having coffee and aspirin when a caller from Sweden told him to expect a “very important announcement.” Winter says the line went dead and he thought it was the bank “ringing up and telling me I had some dodgy transaction.”
In fact, he shared the 2018 Nobel Prize for chemistry for his work on the directed evolution of antibodies along with Frances Arnold of the California Institute of Technology and George Smith of the University of Missouri.
There will be another party shortly in Cambridge. Lab colleagues told Winter that 2,793 pounds ($3,636) worth of Champagne have been ordered before asking “can we have your credit card please?”
Dr. Wayne Marasco of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston said the lab technique developed by the new Nobel laureates George Smith and Gregory Winter was “revolutionary … and it’s used today, every day.”
Marasco said he uses it daily in his own research on developing therapies that use antibodies, which are disease-fighting proteins in the blood.
The two prizewinners harnessed viruses called phages that infect bacteria.
Smith, of the University of Missouri in Columbia, showed that inserting DNA into these viruses would make them display proteins linked to that DNA on their surfaces. Winter, of the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England, adapted the approach to create antibodies that target disease-related targets. In a process mimicking evolution, Winter introduced mutations to make antibodies progressively better at binding to their targets.
Marasco said the technique lets scientists screen millions or even billions of antibodies for their ability to grab onto a target like a protein on the surface of a cancer cell. It makes such screening far faster and more efficient.
Frances Arnold of the California Institute of Technology shared the Nobel Prize in chemistry on Wednesday along with Smith and Winter.
Greg Winter, a British scientist who shared the 2018 Nobel Prize for chemistry, says an encounter with a cancer patient made him realize the importance of his work.
Speaking to reporters Wednesday, the 67-year-old Winter recalled a moment early in his career when he visited a woman who was receiving his then-experimental antibody treatment. Even though Winter didn’t know whether the treatment would work, the patient was grateful for whatever more time it would allow her to spend with her husband, who was also sick.
Winter, who shared the prize with two other scientists for his work on the directed evolution of antibodies, says he realized afterward there was a “moral imperative” to ensure “what was produced could be used for public benefit.”
The patient responded to the therapy but died when there wasn’t enough to continue her treatment.
Frances Arnold of the California Institute of Technology is only the fifth woman to be awarded a Nobel Prize in chemistry since the prizes were first handed out in 1901.
The first winner was Marie Curie, who was honored in 1911 for the discovery of radium and polonium. Twenty-four years later, Curie’s daughter, Irene Joliot-Curie, was recognized, alongside her husband Frederic Joliot, for the synthesis of radioactive elements.
British scientist Dorothy Hodgkin was the next winner, in 1964.
After a 45-year gap, Israel’s Ada Yonath was one of three winners in 2009.
On Tuesday, Canadian Donna Strickland became the third female physics laureate and the first in 55 years.
There have been several female winners in the areas of medicine, literature and peace, but only one woman —the American Elinor Ostrom in 2009— has been awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in economics.
One chemical expert says the research of new Nobel laureate Frances Arnold “has really enabled lots of different chemists to think about how we can make proteins and design proteins to do some fascinating chemistry.”
Matt Hartings, an associate professor of chemistry at American University in Washington, D.C., says “her work is incredible.”
Arnold of the California Institute of Technology was awarded half of the 9-million-kronor ($1.01 million) prize Wednesday, while the other half will be shared by George Smith of the University of Missouri and Gregory Winter of the MRC molecular biology lab in Cambridge, England.
Hartings says the proteins that Arnold designed “do these really off-the-wall chemical things in record time.” He says her directed evolution approach has greatly helped chemists make enzymes do jobs that nature never intended, such as for industrial purposes.
Hartings said her recent development of an enzyme that can promote chemical reactions involving silicon was a startling accomplishment, “completely bonkers.”
Scientists have been applauding the winners of the Nobel chemistry prize, saying that it highlights the practical role chemistry plays in our daily lives.
Carol Robinson, president of Britain’s Royal Society of Chemistry, says the prize shows how chemistry contributes “to many areas of our lives including pharmaceuticals, detergents, green catalysis and biofuels.”
Robinson said Wednesday that directed evolution of enzymes and antibody technology “are now transforming medicine.”
Douglas Kell, a professor of bioanalytical science at the University of Manchester, says the prize is “fantastic news. Really well deserved. Nobels commonly go to folk who develop methods that revolutionize practice or understanding. These methods are entirely general and have done both.”
Nobel chemistry laureate George Smith, reached at his home in Columbia, Missouri, was quick to credit the work of others in his prize.
“Pretty much every Nobel laureate understands that what he’s getting the prize for is built on many precedents, a great number of ideas and research that he is exploiting because he is at the right place at the right time,” he told The Associated Press.
“Very few research breakthroughs are novel. 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.”
Smith said he learned of the prize in a pre-dawn phone call from Stockholm. “It’s a standard joke that someone with a Swedish accent calls and says you won! But there was so much static on the line, I knew it wasn’t any of my friends,” he said.
He said he has “no idea” what he’ll do with the prize money. “We’re going to give it away, I think. But we’ll think hard how we’ll do it. It’s not just the money, it has a meaning well beyond the money.”
Smith, 77, was a professor for 40 years at the University of Missouri at the Division of Biological Sciences.
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences says the three researchers who were awarded this year’s Nobel Prize in chemistry “harnessed the power of evolution” to develop enzymes and antibodies that have led to new pharmaceuticals and biofuels.
Frances Arnold of the California Institute of Technology was awarded half the prize for conducting the first directed evolution of enzymes, leading to more environmentally friendly manufacturing of chemicals, including drugs, and in the production of renewable fuels.
George Smith of the University of Missouri and Gregory Winter of the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England, share the other half of the prize. Smith developed a new way to evolve proteins and Winter used the method for evolving antibodies with the aim of producing new drugs.
The first drug based on this work is used against rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and inflammatory bowel disease, the academy said.
The Nobel Prize in chemistry has been awarded to two researchers in the United States and one in Britain.
Half of the 9-million-kronor ($1.01 million) prize was designated for Frances Arnold of Caltech in Pasadena for work that has led to the development of new biofuels and pharmaceuticals.
The other half of the prize will be shared by George Smith of the University of Missouri and Gregory Winter of the MRC Laboratory in Cambridge. They were honored for “phage display of peptides and antibodies.”
The Nobel Prize in chemistry, which honors researchers for advances in studying how molecules combine and interact, is being announced Wednesday by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
The 9-million-kronor ($1.01 million) chemistry prize is the last of this year’s scientific Nobel Prizes.
Last year’s prize went to researchers in the United States, Switzerland and Britain who developed a microscope technique that lets scientists see details of the molecules that drive life.
The winner of the Nobel Peace Prize is to be announced Friday. No literature prize will be awarded this year. The Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, honoring the man who endowed the five Nobel Prizes, will be revealed Monday.
The medicine prize was awarded Monday to American and Japanese researchers. Scientists from the United States, Canada and France shared the physics prize Tuesday.
Follow the AP’s coverage as the 2018 Nobel Prizes are awarded at https://apnews.com/tag/NobelPrizes
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