Engineering Innovation Podcast and Radio Series

Directed Evolution

PostedFebruary 20, 2011

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Randy Atkins: Through evolution, nature has created biochemicals exquisitely designed for their roles in life processes.

Frances Arnold: I wanted to build new versions of these things that wouldn’t do natural jobs but instead would help me solve human problems.

Randy Atkins: Frances Arnold, of Cal Tech, is an inventor of “directed evolution.” 

Frances Arnold: You can optimize biological systems for all sorts of human applications, from baking to laundry detergents, to drugs and drug delivery.

Randy Atkins: She tweaks the genetic blueprints of natural proteins, and sees if the change creates a desired function. 

Frances Arnold: I’ll collect the ones I like, and I’ll throw the other ones away.

Randy Atkins: The process is then repeated in a fine-tuning similar to breeding, but with molecules instead of animals. With the National Academy of Engineering, Randy Atkins, WTOP News.