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Biochemical engineer Frances Arnold wins 2016 Millennium Technology Prize

She receives the prize recognition of her discoveries to create new and better proteins in the laboratory.
Photo by Caltech

Technology Academy Finland (TAF) has today declared American innovator Frances Arnold as winner of the 2016 Millennium Technology Prize, the prominent award for technological innovations that enhance the quality of people’s lives. The prize, awarded at two-year intervals, is being awarded for the seventh time since the award was first conferred in 2004 and it is worth one million euros.

Biochemical engineer Frances Arnold She receives the 2016 Millennium Technology Prize in recognition of her discoveries that launched the field of ‘directed evolution’. This technology uses the power of biology and evolution to solve many important problems, often replacing less efficient and sometimes harmful technologies. Thanks to directed evolution, sustainable development and clean technology become available in many areas of industry that no longer have to rely on non-renewable raw materials.

- Her achievements in the field of green technologies are very significant considering the future of ours and our need to replace the fossil fuels with renewable natural sources, says Aalto University’s Adjunct Professor in the field of synthetic biology Merja Penttilä, who was also a member of the International Selection Committee.

Arnold’s innovations have revolutionized the slow and costly process of protein modification, and today her methods are being used in hundreds of laboratories and companies around the world. Modified proteins are used to replace processes that are expensive or that utilize fossil raw materials in the production of fuels, paper products, pharmaceuticals, textiles and agricultural chemicals.

With directed evolution it is possible to create proteins with useful properties that would not develop without human intervention. Frances Arnold’s method generates random mutations in the DNA – just as it happens in nature. The modified genes produce proteins with new properties, from which the researcher can choose the useful ones, repeating the process until the level of performance needed by industry is achieved.

The Millennium Technology Prize is one of the world’s most prestigious science and technology prizes. Professor Arnold is the first woman to win the award, underscoring her status as a strong role model for women working in technology. The winner, who follows in the footsteps of past winners such as World Wide Web creator Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of bright blue and white LEDs Shuji Nakamura and ethical stem cell pioneer Shinya Yamanaka, was honoured at a ceremony in Helsinki, Finland.

For more information

Technology Academy Finland web site (taf.fi)

 

The Millennium Technology Prize is a Finnish prize awarded in recognition of innovators of technologies that promote sustainable development and a better quality of life. The Prize is one of the world’s largest and most prestigious science and technology prizes and it is presented every other year by the independent Technology Academy Finland (TAF). The winning innovation is selected by the Board of the academy at the recommendation of the International Selection Committee.

Aalto University is a strategic partner of Technology Academy Finland. One of its roles is to propose new members for the International Selection Committee.

 

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