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Frances H. Arnold, the Dick and Barbara Dickinson Professor of Chemical Engineering, Bioengineering and Biochemistry at the California Institute of Technology, will receive the 2017 Raymond and Beverly Sackler Prize in Convergence Research. Join us online as the recipients are presented with their awards on Sunday, April 30 at 2:00 p.m. EDT.
Arnold’s pioneering work on enzymes took its cue from natural evolutionary processes. She developed a technique called directed evolution, which emulates natural selection through iterative application of random mutagenesis and rapid mutant screening in order to accumulate beneficial mutations. During the 1990s, Arnold invented this technology in order to “breed” proteins with desirable traits that would have been difficult or impossible to design, much like farmers breed animals or crops. The work has led to the creation of a broad array of new and useful enzymes which are used in pharmaceuticals, biofuels, plastics, research reagents, diagnostics and other specialty chemicals, a field collectively worth an estimated $2 billion a year.
Beyond that, Arnold’s work also has provided insight into natural processes, allowing researchers to examine the molecular basis of protein function and evolution and experimentally test evolutionary theory.
Her most recent work takes this even further by developing enzymes that have no biological counterparts and which have tremendous implications for the creation of new types of catalysts.
The Raymond and Beverly Sackler Prize in Convergence Research recognizes significant advances in convergence research -- the integration of two or more of the following disciplines: mathematics, physics, chemistry, biomedicine, biology, astronomy, earth sciences, engineering, and computational science -- for achievements possible only through such integration. The 2017 prize is presented for convergence research that benefits any area of science such as agriculture, energy, the environment, or major advances in technology (such as imaging, nanotechnology, robotics, communications, or computing).