Share this:
01/04/2011 08:00:00

Arnold Wins Draper Prize

Frances Arnold has been named co-recipient of the Charles Stark Draper Prize by the National Academy of Engineering (NAE). Arnold, Caltech's Dick and Barbara Dickinson Professor of Chemical Engineering, Bioengineering and Biochemistry, was awarded the $500,000 prize—the engineering profession's highest honor—for a method called directed evolution, used worldwide to guide the creation of certain properties in proteins and cells, allowing the engineering of novel enzymes and biocatalytic processes for pharmaceutical and chemical products.

Arnold showed that randomly mutating genes of a targeted protein, especially an enzyme, would result in some new proteins having more desirable traits than they did before the mutation. She selected the best proteins and repeated this process multiple times, essentially directing the evolution of the proteins until they had properties needed for a particular use.

The Draper Prize was given jointly to Arnold and Willem P.C. Stemmer, the CEO of Amunix.

The NAE also named Caltech alumnus Leroy Hood the recipient of the Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ Prize—a $500,000 biennial award recognizing "a bioengineering achievement that significantly improves the human condition"—for the development of an automated DNA sequencer that "revolutionized biomedicine and forensic science," according to the prize announcement. Now the president of the Institute for Systems Biology, Hood was on the Caltech faculty when he developed the sequencer in the 1980s. 

Both prizes will be presented in Washington, D.C., on February 22.

Written by Kathy Svitil