American Biochemical Engineer, The First Woman Ever Wins The Millennium Technology Prize

First Posted: May 25, 2016 05:30 AM EDT

Frances Arnold, an American biochemical engineer and a professor of chemical engineering, bioengineering and biochemistry at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena was awarded $1.2 million Millennium Technology Prize for her discoveries in "directed evolution" in Helsinki in Finland last Tuesday. Professor Arnold's innovations lead to the creation of medicines such as drugs for treating diabetes.

Her works are cited as having the great impact in pharmaceuticals and gene therapy. Jarl-Thure Eriksson, the committee chairman of the Millennium Prize said that hundreds of laboratories and companies around the world are using the method that Arnold has developed, according to East Bay Times.

The citation states that the "directed evolution," which represents natural evolution to create new and better proteins in the laboratory, uses the power of biology and evolution to solve many significant problems, often replacing less efficient and sometimes harmful technologies. Clean technology and sustainable development are achieved in the "directed evolution."

The method is also used all around the world to produce valuable enzymes. It is also needed to manufacture Januvia, which is a diabetes drug. The process can also be utilized to create other chemicals and fuels from renewable resources, according to CS Monitor.

Arnold explained that the method substituted a chemical process with an enzymatic process, thereby completely removing toxic metals that were required and getting the solvent waste reduction of 60 percent. She also co-founded Gevo, a company that harness "green" chemistry. She said that they evolved an enzyme that makes it possible to convert plant sugars to this precursor to jet fuel. The company is producing jet fuel from renewable resources.

The Finnish President Sauli Niinisto gave the award. Professor Arnold was the chosen among the 79 nominees for the prize. Eriksson said that from the beginning of her career she has been a forerunner in a previously male-dominated field.

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