"They have applied the principles of Darwin in test tubes. They have used the molecular understanding we have of the evolutionary process and recreated the process in their labs," the head of the Academy's Nobel Chemistry committee, Claes Gustafsson, told reporters.
"They have been able to make evolution many 1000s of times faster and redirect it to create new proteins." Arnold, 62, is a professor of chemical engineering at the California Institute of Technology. Her work has made it possible to solve problems such as replacing toxic chemicals like fossil fuels.
Her method of creating new proteins with desired properties is being used to convert renewable resources like sugar cane into biofuels, and to make more environmentally friendly chemical substances, improving everyday products such as laundry and dishwashing detergents to enhance their performance in cold temperatures.
Smith, of the University of Missouri, and Winter, 67, of the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology at Cambridge, meanwhile developed an "elegant method" known as phage display, where a bacteriophage -- a virus that infects bacteria -- can be used to evolve new proteins, the jury said.
Pharmaceuticals for rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and inflammatory bowel diseases have resulted from their research, as well as anti-bodies that can neutralise toxins, counteract autoimmune diseases and cure metastatic cancer.