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3 October, 2018 - 13:17 By Tony Quested

Nobel Prize for Greg Winter as Cambridge notches another success

Genetic engineer Sir Greg Winter has won the 2018 Nobel Prize in Chemistry to maintain a record-breaking run for affiliates of Cambridge University.

Six months after being honoured by Business Weekly and Cambridge Enterprise with our inaugural  Lifetime Achievement Award, Sir Greg has become the 107th affiliate of Cambridge to be awarded a Nobel Prize.

Affiliates of the University of Cambridge have received more Nobel Prizes than those of any other institution.

Sir Greg has been jointly awarded the prize along with Frances Arnold and George Smith for his pioneering work in using phage display for the directed evolution of antibodies, with the aim of producing new pharmaceuticals.

The first pharmaceutical based on this method, adalimumab, was approved in 2002 and is used for rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and inflammatory bowel diseases. Since then, phage display has produced antibodies that can neutralise toxins, counteract autoimmune diseases and cure metastatic cancer.

The Nobel Assembly said: “The 2018 Nobel Laureates in Chemistry have taken control of evolution and used it for purposes that bring the greatest benefit to humankind. 

“Enzymes produced through directed evolution are used to manufacture everything from biofuels to pharmaceuticals. Antibodies evolved using a method called phage display can combat autoimmune diseases and in some cases cure metastatic cancer.”

Professor Winter, the Master of Trinity College, is best known for his research and inventions relating to humanised and human therapeutic antibodies. Sir Gregory is a graduate of Trinity College and was a senior research fellow before becoming Master.

His research career has been based almost entirely in Cambridge at the Medical Research Council’s Laboratory of Molecular Biology and the Centre for Protein Engineering.

During this time he also founded three Cambridge biotechnology companies based on his inventions: Cambridge Antibody Technology (acquired by AstraZeneca), Domantis (acquired by GlaxoSmithKline) and Bicycle Therapeutics.

Sir Greg studied Natural Sciences at Trinity College and was awarded his PhD, also from Cambridge, in 1977.

Professor Patrick Maxwell, Regius Professor of Physic and head of the School of Clinical Medicine at the University of Cambridge, said: “I am absolutely delighted that Sir Greg’s work has been recognised with a Nobel Prize. 

“The work for which the prize is awarded was carried out on the Cambridge Biomedical Campus. It directly led to the power of monoclonal antibodies being harnessed for treatment of disease. 

“Medicines based on Sir Greg’s discovery have transformed the lives of patients around the world. His inventions really have produced silver bullets that have transformed the way medicine is practised.”

Professor Sir Alan Fersht, former Master of Gonville and Caius, added: “Greg Winter is an outstandingly creative scientist of a practical bent. He has applied his skills and imagination to the benefit of humankind to create, amongst other inventions, novel engineered antibodies that have formed the basis of a new pharmaceutical industry to treat disease and cancer. It is a thoroughly worthy Nobel Prize."

Nobel Prizes have been awarded to members of the University of Cambridge for significant advances as diverse as the discovery of the structure of DNA, the development of a national income accounting system, the mastery of an epic and narrative psychological art and the discovery of penicillin.

To date 107 affiliates of the University of Cambridge have been awarded the Nobel Prize since 1904 – spanning every category: 32 in Physics, 26 in Medicine, 25 in Chemistry, 11 in Economics, three in Literature and two in Peace. Trinity College has 33 Nobel Laureates, the most of any Cambridge college.

In 1950, Bertrand Russell became the first person from Cambridge to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature, for his 1946 work A History of Western Philosophy.

Frederick Sanger, from St John’s and Fellow of King’s, is one of only four individuals to have been awarded a Nobel Prize twice – he received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1958 and 1980.

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