About Frances H. Arnold's Work

My group studies how biological systems evolve at the molecular level and uses that insight to create new ones. Evolution works at all scales of complexity, from proteins to ecosystems; we have developed ways to direct evolution to particular goals by controlling how and where mutations are made and screening to discover beneficial mutations or recombinations. Where appropriate, we use machine learning to speed the process. These approaches circumvent our profound ignorance of how DNA sequence encodes biological function and exploit the remarkable ability of biological systems to evolve and adapt. With directed evolution we recreate or anticipate possible routes of natural evolution and explore what is physically possible versus what is biologically relevant at the time. We are currently making new enzymes that catalyze reactions not known in nature and generating light-activated membrane channels for neuroscience applications.

Awards and Achievements

Millennium Technology Prize (2016)

Honorary doctorate ETH Zurich (2015)

National Inventors Hall of Fame (2014)

ENI Prize in Renewable and Nonconventional Energy (2013)

Honorary doctorate Stockholm University (2013)

National Medal of Technology and Innovation (2011)

Charles Stark Draper Prize of the National Academy of Engineering (2011)

American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2011)

National Academy of Sciences (2008)

Institute of Medicine (2004)

National Academy of Engineering (2000)