visual image

News & Publications

Frances Arnold, CBE alum, wins Charles Stark Draper Prize

Bookmark and Share
Francis Arnold
Francis Arnold

January 31, 2011

Caltech professor Frances Arnold has been named co-recipient of the Charles Stark Draper Prize by the National Academy of Engineering (NAE).

Arnold, a former Ph.D. student of CBE professor Harvey Blanch, 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. The technique allows 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.

More Information