MU professor wins Nobel Prize in chemistry

George Smith, a University of Missouri professor emeritus, was awarded the Nobel Prize for chemistry on Wednesday.

Smith is the first MU professor to win a Nobel Prize for research conducted at the university.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences honored Smith alongside Frances H. Arnold of the
California Institute of Technology and Sir Gregory Winter of MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology.

In its announcement, the academy said Smith and his fellow honorees “have taken control of evolution and used it for purposes that bring the greatest benefit to humankind.”

In 1985, Smith developed a technique known as phage display, which uses a bacteriophage — or a virus that infects bacteria – to evolve new proteins. Winter later used phage display in the directed evolution of antibodies, in an effort to create new pharmaceuticals.

Today, enzymes created through directed evolution are used to make everything from biofuels to pharmaceuticals.

Arnold will receive one half of the cash prize, worth about $1.1 million, and Smith and Winter will split the other half.

Smith joined the MU faculty in 1975 and became a professor emeritus in 2015.

“I am very conscious that I am far from alone in this recognition,” Smith said in a press release. “I am representing a whole array of people who created what was necessary for me to make this final little step — people who have shown the way for many imaginative applications.”

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