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Frances Arnold

California Institute of Technology

Frances_Arnold_Bild_webFrances Arnold is the Linus Pauling Professor of Chemical Engineering, Bioengineering and Biochemistry at the California Institute of Technology. She was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2018, one half went for her work on directed evolution of enzymes. Arnold’s work has been recognized by several other international awards, including the Charles Stark Draper Prize of the National Academy of Engineering (2011), the Millennium Technology Prize (2016), the National Academy of Sciences’ Sackler Prize in Convergence Research (2017), and the US National Medal of Technology and Innovation (2011). She has also been elected to membership in the US National Academies of Science, Medicine, and Engineering, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the National Inventors Hall of Fame. She has received honorary doctorates from Stockholm University, University of Chicago, Dartmouth College, and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich). Arnold chairs the Advisory Panel of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation Fellowships in Science and Engineering and is a Trustee of the Gordon Research Conferences. She is also a Director of Illumina. Co-inventor on 58 issued US patents and active in technology transfer, Dr. Arnold co-founded Gevo, Inc. in 2005 to make fuels and chemicals from renewable resources and Provivi, Inc. in 2014 to develop non-toxic modes of agricultural pest control. Dr. Arnold received her B.S. in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering from Princeton University and her Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from UC Berkeley. She carried out postdoctoral research in physical chemistry at UC Berkeley.

Recipient of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Chemistry



Innovation by Evolution: Expanding the Protein Universe


Not satisfied with nature’s vast protein repertoire, we want to create new ones and expand the space of genetically encoded functions. I will describe how we use the most powerful biological design process, evolution, to optimize existing enzymes and invent new ones. I will present different evolutionary strategies that allow us to circumvent our profound ignorance of how sequence encodes function. Mimicking nature’s evolutionary tricks and using a little chemical intuition, we can generate whole new enzyme families that catalyze important reactions, including ones not known in nature, thereby adding new capabilities to the chemistry of the biological world and increasing the scope of molecules and materials we can build.