AIChE and SBE member Frances Arnold shares the 2011 Charles Stark Draper Prize with Willem P. C. Stemmer, founder and CEO of Amunix Inc. Just as National Engineers Week comes to a close, The Draper Prize--considered the Nobel Prize for engineers--comes with a $500,000 cash award in addition to recognition across all engineering disciplines.
According to the National Academy of Engineering, the 2011 Draper Prize was awarded "for directed evolution, a method used worldwide for engineering novel enzymes and biocatalytic processes for pharmaceutical and chemical products." Here's more about the details of Arnold's findings via the National Academy of Engineering:
At the heart of directed evolution is the concept that the mutation and selection processes that occur in nature can be vastly accelerated in the laboratory to obtain specific, targeted improvements in the function of single proteins and multi-protein pathways. Arnold showed that randomly mutating genes of a targeted protein, especially enzymes, 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 desirable for a particular use.
Read more and find out about Willem Stemmer's contribution.
You can also read about Frances Arnold's keynote speech at the recent SBE-sponsored ICBE conference.