The Society of Chemical Industry (SCI) America has announced that it is awarding its highest honor, the Perkin Medal, to Frances Arnold, Caltech's Linus Pauling Professor of Chemical Engineering, Bioengineering and Biochemistry and director of the Donna and Benjamin M. Rosen Bioengineering Center.
The award honors Arnold's innovations in directed evolution, an approach she developed for creating new enzymes and improving existing ones. By mutating and recombining the gene that encodes the enzyme followed by artificial selection for the desired traits, protein engineers can use her approach to "breed" biomolecules, not unlike how farmers breed crops and animals.
Directed evolution is now widely used to create enzymes for making everything from fuels to medicines, chemicals, and consumer goods. Chemical synthesis using laboratory-evolved enzymes is often more efficient and greener than more traditional methods. For her work in this field, Arnold won the 2018 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
Arnold will be presented with the 2023 Perkin Medal at an award ceremony that will be held in Philadelphia in September.
"Dr. Arnold has spent nearly 30 years refining directed evolution methods specifically to be useful to humankind—and these methods are today used in numerous industrial applications to develop new enzyme catalysts," said Frank Bozich, chair of SCI America in a prepared statement. "She is one of the most honored chemists in the world, and we are thrilled to celebrate her accomplishments this fall."
Arnold says the award is a recognition of the importance of the field and the contributions of everyone working within it.
"This award highlights the real-world impact of enzymes and using evolution as an enzyme design process—work done by the many scientists and engineers who want to make chemistry more sustainable," she says.
For more information about the Perkin Medal, click here.