4 October 2018 – The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded this year’s prize for “harnessing the power of evolution” and applying it to the benefit of humankind. Gregory Winter was awarded half of the prize jointly with George Smith of the University of Missouri, Columbia, USA for the development and application of phage display. The other half of the prize was awarded to Frances Arnold of California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, USA, for the directed evolution of enzymes.
Winter was elected to the EMBO Membership in 1987 and joins a list of 87 other EMBO Members and Associate Members who have been awarded Nobel Prizes. He used phage display for the directed evolution of antibodies, with the aim of producing new pharmaceuticals. Adalimumab, which was approved in 2002, was the first pharmaceutical developed through this method and is used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and inflammatory bowel diseases.
EMBO also congratulates this year’s recipients of the two other scientific Nobel Prizes. The Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine was awarded to James P. Allison, University of Texas, USA and Tasuku Honjo, Kyoto University, Japan for their discovery of cancer therapy by inhibition of negative immune regulation. In recognition of prize, EMBO Press published a collection of recent papers on cancer immunotherapy.
The physics prize was awarded to Arthur Ashkin, Bell Laboratories, Holmdel, USA, for optical tweezers and their application to biological systems, and jointly to Gérard Mourou, École Polytechnique, Palaiseau, France, and Donna Strickland, University of Waterloo, Canada, for the method of generating high-intensity, ultra-short optical pulses. Both applications have uses in and implications for biology and medicine.