American Chemical society
American Chemical Society

Nobel Laureate Frances Arnold to Receive ACS's Highest Honor for Pioneering Directed Evolution

July 8, 2024
Caltech professor and presidential advisor recognized with 2025 Priestley Medal for revolutionizing chemical and biological design through accelerated evolutionary techniques

The American Chemical Society (ACS) said July 8 it will honor Nobel Prize winner Frances Arnold with the 2025 Priestley Medal, the group’s highest honor, according to a California Institute of Technology (Caltech) news release.

The Priestley Medal recognizes a single individual for distinguished services to chemistry. ACS is honoring Arnold, a Caltech chemical engineering professor, for her work on developing directed evolution as a method for chemical and biological design, Caltech noted.

Directed evolution is a laboratory technique that accelerates natural evolutionary processes. Scientists use this method to engineer biological molecules, enhancing existing functions or creating new ones in proteins, optimizing metabolic pathways, and modifying whole genomes, as ACS describes.

Arnold will receive the medal and deliver an address next year at the ACS Spring 2025 meeting in San Diego on March 25.

Arnold, who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2018 and is co-chair of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, developed the novel bioengineering method known as directed evolution in the early 1990s for making new and improved enzymes in the laboratory using the principles of evolution.

Labs and companies now use the method to produce various materials, including laundry detergents, biofuels and medicines, in more efficient and environmentally friendly ways.

The Priestley Medal commemorates the life of British scientist Joseph Priestley, who discovered oxygen in 1774.

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