This year's Nobel Prize winner on taking control of evolution

​Frances H. Arnold’s research into the controlled evolution of enzymes was the winner of this year's Nobel Prize in Chemistry. During her visit to Chalmers, the Nobel laureate explained how her research can help us tailor nature.
In the lecture, titled "Innovation by Evolution: Bringing New Chemistry to Life," Frances H. Arnold spoke of her constant fascination with the forces of biology and on the research that led to the Nobel Prize.

"We know how to edit DNA, but we cannot create it. I often say it's like a Beethoven symphony, where we're still trying to learn to hold the pen that writes the notes. But it is nature, evolution, that knows how to create DNA. So, I decided that that was the process I would try to imitate in the laboratory.”

It resulted in Frances H. Arnold being awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the "controlled evolution of enzymes". By shaping enzymes, she has made major contributions in the development of drugs, and to the field of chemistry as a whole. She has developed methods for inducing mutations of the genes encoding the respective enzymes. With her method, it is possible to choose variants of enzyme with a desired trait.

After the lecture, the audience got the chance to ask questions of the Nobel Prize winner. Several researchers and students at Chalmers were able to speak with Frances H. Arnold about her research, with the last question of the day asking for her thoughts about perfectionism in research. She responded with a few words about achievement.

"It’s been a long time since I stopped worrying about making everything perfect. I'm an expert on the term ‘good enough’!”

In connection with the lecture, Pernilla Wittung-Stafshede, professor and head of the division of Chemical Biology at Chalmers, was given the opportunity to talk with the Nobel Prize winner. Watch the film of their conversation, about what defines a good idea in research, as well as advice for young researchers​.

Text: Sophia Kristensson

Published: Wed 19 Dec 2018. Modified: Thu 20 Dec 2018