Lecture: 2018 Nobel Laureate Frances H. Arnold

We are delighted to announce a Science Lecture by 2018 Nobel Laureate Frances H. Arnold, the Linus Professor of Chemical Engineering, Bioengineering and Biochemistry at the California Institute of Technology. The lecture, titled “Enzymes by Evolution: Bringing New Chemistry to Life”, will take place in Lundbeckfond Auditorium (Biocenter) on 23 May at 14:00. The doors to the Auditorium will open at 13:00. The lecture will be followed by a reception from 15:15. The lecture is hosted by María Escudero-Escribano.

Program of the day:
14:00-14:05       Introduction by María Escudero Escribano
14:05-14:55       Lecture by Frances Arnold: “Enzymes by Evolution: Bringing New Chemistry to Life”
14:55-15:10       Q&A session
15:10-15:15       Closing remarks by Mikael Bols
15:15-16:30       Reception

Not satisfied with nature’s vast catalyst repertoire, we want to create new protein catalysts and expand the space of genetically encoded enzyme functions. I will describe how we can use the most powerful biological design process, evolution, to optimize existing enzymes and invent new ones, thereby circumventing our profound ignorance of how sequence encodes function. Using mechanistic understanding and mimicking nature’s evolutionary processes, we can generate whole new enzyme families that catalyze synthetically important reactions not known in biology. Recent successes include selective carbene insertion to form C-Si and C-B bonds, and alkyne cyclopropanation to make highly strained carbocycles, all in living cells. Extending the capabilities and uncovering the mechanisms of these new enzymes derived from natural iron-heme proteins provides a basis for discovering new biocatalysts for increasingly challenging reactions. These new capabilities increase the scope of molecules and materials we can build using synthetic biology and move us closer to a sustainable world where chemical synthesis can be fully programmed in DNA.

Brief biography:
Frances Arnold is the Linus Pauling Professor of Chemical Engineering, Bioengineering and Biochemistry at the California Institute of Technology, where she has been on the faculty since 1986.  She is the first American woman to win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry (2018). Arnold pioneered directed protein evolution and has used those methods for applications in alternative energy, chemicals, and medicine. Arnold received the Charles Stark Draper Prize of the US National Academy of Engineering in 2011, the US National Medal of Technology and Innovation from President Obama in 2013, and the Millennium Technology Prize in 2016. Elected to all three US National Academies of Science, Medicine, and Engineering.

Co-inventor on 58 issued US patents and active in technology transfer, Arnold co-founded Gevo, Inc. in 2005 to make fuels and chemicals from renewable resources, Provivi, Inc. in 2014 to develop non-toxic modes of agricultural pest control, and Aralez, Inc. in 2019 to develop sustainable biocatalytic processes for producing medicines and chemicals. Arnold received her B.S. in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering from Princeton University and worked at the Solar Energy Research Institute, a national laboratory devoted to alternative energy research (now NREL) before obtaining her Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. Arnold chairs the Advisory Panel of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation Fellowships in Science and Engineering and is a Trustee of the Gordon Research Conferences.