News

  • July 2017: The 2017 ISSOL conference took place on the campus of the University of California, San Diego in La Jolla, California, USA. Sessions started on Sunday, July 16 with a keynote lecture by Nobel laureate Jack Szostak, and ended on Friday afternoon, July 21. During the week, a full program with a total of 80 plenary lectures took place from 8:30am to 8:30pm, and covered exciting research from astronomy to geochemistry, inorganic / organic chemistry, biochemistry, and biology. The outstanding selection of seminars as well as the four panels received many positive comments. More than 150 posters were presented.
     
    During the conference, several of our colleagues were distinguished by three different awards. The 2017 Stanley Miller award was given to Aaron Engelhart for his recent work on artificial cells, celebrated in his award lecture during the Gala dinner. Three 2017 ISSOL Fellows were elected for their contributions to the field of origins-of-life research: Jim Cleaves, George Cooper, and  Steven Benner. The winners of Poster Awards in 9 categories were: Toshiba Koga (Kyushu University), Ulrich Schreiber (University of Duisburg-Essen), Andrew Surman (University of Glasgow), Rehana Afrin (Tokyo Institute of Technology), Irene Suárez-Marina (University of Glasgow), Claudia Bonfio (University of Trento), Punam Dalai (University of Akron), Sarah Morrow (University of Oxford), David Fialho (Georgia Institute of Technology), Gabriel Piedrafita (Welcome Trust Sanger Institute), David Horning (The Salk Institute), Mark Ditzler (NASA Ames), Gregory Smith (University of Colorado), Laura Rodriguez (Pennsylvania State University), Brooke Rothschild-Mancinelli (Imperial College London), Anton Petrov (Georgia Institute of Technology), and Gareth Shannon (USRA). All abstracts of seminars and posters of the conference are available on the meeting web site. A big Thank you to the sponsors: NASA, LPI, ELSI / EON, The Simons Foundation, and the division of Physical Sciences at UCSD.  
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  • June 2015: Pascale Ehrenfreund, a longtime member of ISSOL and the recent past Treasurer has been appointed as the new Chair of the DLR Executive Board. We wish to congratulate her on her new position!
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  • Aug 2014: Professor John Sutherland was awarded the 2014 Darwin Medal for his novel and convincing work on prebiotic chemistry, in particular his solution to the central problem of nucleoside synthesis. The Darwin Medal is awarded biennially (in even years) by The Royal Society for “work of acknowledged distinction in the broad area of biology in which Charles Darwin worked, notably in evolution, population biology, organismal biology and biological diversity.”
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  • ISSOL AWARDS 2014: During the meeting  Origins 2014 held in Nara (Japan), several of our colleagues were distinguished with the ISSOL Awards: Oparin MedalAndrew H. Knoll (Harvard University, USA). Miller Research AwardMatthew Pasek (University of South Florida, USA). ISSOL FellowsGeorge E. Fox (University of Houston, USA), Nicholas Hud (Georgia Institute of Technology, USA), Marie-Christine Maurel (Université Pierre et Marie Curie and Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France), Juli Pereto (University of Valencia, Spain). Best Poster Awards: (1) Niraja Bapat and Sudha Rajamani (Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Maharashtra, India). (2) Palash K. Sarker (Independent University, Bangladesh), Jun-ichi Takahashi (ILE, Osaka University, Suita, Japan), Koichi Matsuo (HiSOR, Hiroshima University, Higashi-Hiroshima, Japan) and Kensei Kobayashi (Yokohama National University, Yokohama, Japan). (3) Frédéric Foucher and Frances Westall (Centre de Biophysique Moléculaire, Orléans, France). ISSOL also awarded 11 Travel Grants for young scientists.
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  • Former ISSOL Executive Council (2011-2014). President: Dave Deamer First Vice President: Sandra Pizzarello Second Vice President: Juli Pereto Secretary: John Robert Brucato Treasurer: Pascale Ehrenfreund Councillors: Abby Allwood, James Henderson Cleaves, Athena Coustenis, Enzo Gallori, Daniel Glavin, Robert Hazen, Emmanuelle Javaux, Uwe Meierhenrich, Hajime Mita, Alicia Negron-Mendoza, Jack Szostak, Nicolle Zellner Student Councillors: Shawn McGlynn, Ivan Paulino-Lima, Sudha Rajamani.
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  • Winners of Origin of Life Challenge announced Competition seeks novel approaches to determining the origin of life on Earth. La Quinta, Calif., and Tempe, Ariz. June 6, 2012. In mid-2011, retired California chemist and entrepreneur Harry Lonsdale issued a challenge to the origin of life scientific community to come up with novel ideas for explaining the mechanism of life’s origin, through the Origin of Life Challenge. Dozens of proposals were received and evaluated by an international panel of experts. The winners were announced today by Lonsdale in collaboration with the Origins Project at Arizona State University and its director Lawrence Krauss. Lonsdale is co-founder of the high tech company, Bend Research Inc., Bend, Ore., and Krauss is an ASU Foundation Professor. Unraveling life’s origin won’t be easy. Earth was a hellish place when life started some 3 to 4 billion years ago. It was a rocky planet with oceans and a primitive, oxygen-free atmosphere, subject to rampant volcanism and intense solar radiation, with frequent impacts from asteroids and comets. Yet, that was the cradle of life, and as far as we know the only life in the universe. Somehow life started and, through replication of its blueprint and the extraction of energy from its environment, life gained a toehold here on Earth, so that Darwinian evolution could begin its inexorable march — toward us. Co-winners of the $50,000 prize in response to the Origin of Life Challenge were two British chemists, John Sutherland at the Medical Research Council Laboratory in Molecular Biology, Cambridge, and Matthew Powner at University College, London. They also received a $150,000 one-year grant to pursue their research in the field. The Sutherland-Powner team is focused on understanding the chemistry of the replication mechanism of first life. All biological replication is based on the nucleic acid polymers RNA and DNA, which carry the genetic code. The team seeks to demonstrate the selective generation of the RNA building blocks and other key biological molecules from simple feedstock molecules under the presumed environmental conditions of pre-biotic Earth. If successful, the Sutherland-Powner team will have demonstrated how RNA could have emerged from plausible chemical reactions on the early Earth. A $90,000 one-year grant was also made to a joint Canadian-U.S. team consisting of Niles Lehman of Portland State University, Portland, Ore.; Peter Unrau of Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada; and Paul Higgs of McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. That team will explore the ways in which potential information stored within random pieces of RNA can spontaneously assemble into sets of self-replicating molecules. The Lehman-Unrau-Higgs team will mix large pools containing small fragments of non-functional RNA under a range of plausible pre-biotic conditions, looking for RNAs that have the ability to make copies of themselves, as well as catalyze other important biochemical reactions. If successful, they will have demonstrated the transition from “dead” chemicals to a living state of autonomous replication. A third, $60,000 grant was made to the team of Wenonah Vercoutere of NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., and David Deamer at the University of California, Santa Cruz. That team will attempt to demonstrate how simple molecules called nucleotides can polymerize to form RNA when they are organized within membranous structures and exposed to conditions simulating volcanic hot springs. If successful, they will have shown how proto-cells containing RNA could have been produced in the pre-biotic environment. “These researchers are among the best in the world, and I am excited to see the results of their work,” Lonsdale said. “Ultimately, it is my hope that within a decade or two the fruits of this research will help provide answers to the origin of life question, and that a rational model for life’s origin will be taught in every biology classroom in the world.” Krauss said the Origin of Life Challenge grants fit perfectly into the mission of the Origins Project at ASU – which is to ask the big questions. “The Origins Project is thrilled to partner with Harry Lonsdale to further his remarkable vision of pushing forward the frontiers of our understanding of life’s origin,” Krauss explained. “It is my hope that these awards will motivate others to contribute support for investigating the important foundational questions that drive the Origins Project and, more broadly, fundamental science everywhere.”
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  • ISSOL AWARDS 2011 During the meeting Origins 2011, held in Montpellier (France), several of our colleagues were distinguished with the ISSOL Awards. Urey Medal – Jack W. Szostak (Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, USA). Miller Research Award – Matthew Powner (Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, USA. White Research Award – Irene Chen (FAS Center for Systems Biology, Harvard University USA. Miller Fellow Chris Dupont (J. Craig Venter Institute, USA). ISSOL Fellows – Gustaf Arrhenius (Scripps Institution of Oceanography, USA), J. Peter Gogarten (University of Connecticut, USA), Ramanarayanan (“Ram”) Krishnamurthy (The Scripps Research Institute, USA). Best Poster Awards  –   Chenyu Wei (NASA Ames Research Center, United States of America), Cécile Feuillie (Laboratoire de Géologie de Lyon: Terre, Planètes,  Environnement, ENS de Lyon, France), Trinity Hamilton (Astrobiology Biogeocatalysis Research Center, Montana State University, USA), Tyler D. Robinson (Astronomy Department, University of Washington,  USA; University of Washington Astrobiology  Program; NASA Astrobiology Institute), Elio Mattia (Centre for Systems Chemistry, Stratingh Institute,  University of Groningen, The Netherlands), Katie Marriott (University of Leeds, United Kingdom), Patrick J. Gasda (University of Hawaii, USA), Tsubasa Otake (Tohoku University, Japan), Delphine Nna Mvondo (Centro de Astrobiologia, CSIC-INTA, Spain), Irma Lozada-Chavez (Interdisciplinary Center for Bioinformatics and  Department of Computer Science, University of Leipzig, Germany), Ari Brozinski (Department of Geology and Minerology, Åbo Akademi, Finland).
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  • Emergence in Chemical Systems 3.0 International Conference, June 17-22, 2013, University of Alaska Anchorage Website Proposed Conference Sessions: Complex chemical systems, Evolving networks of chemical reactions, Transition from nonliving to living matter, Molecular machines and systems of molecular machines, Systems Chemistry, Living Technologies, Bioengineering, mimicking biological systems, Emergence, innovation, and creation in biology and technology. Past Conference, Emergence in Complex Systems 2.0 For information contact Dr. Jerzy Maselko, jmaselko2 (at) uaa.alaska.edu.
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  • Origin of Life Research Award The Lonsdale Award received 76 entries, many from ISSOL members, of which 15 were selected for review. The panel is composed almost entirely of ISSOL members. Dave Deamer will chair the panel, and Ken Nealson is vice-chair. The review process will resemble that used in major funding agencies, in which a primary and secondary reviewer read the proposal carefully and report to the full panel during the meeting. This is followed by a discussion and a confidential vote in which each panelist ranks the proposal from 1 to 5, with 1 being the best score. After the meeting Mr. Lonsdale will consider the panel scores, comments and recommendation, then choose the winner. The panel meets in San Diego March 30, and the prize will be announced about a month later.
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  • First International Symposium on Evolutionary Biology Cabo Branco Station-Science, Culture and Art, João Pessoa, Brazil, June 5th to 8th, 2012, Further Information in the website. With the support of: Núcleo de Estudos em Biologia Evolutiva, Universidade Federal da Paraíba, Universidade Federal de Campina Grande, Sociedade Brasileira de Genética and ISSOL-The International Astrobiology Society.
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  • OLEB Executive Editors The OLEB Vol. 41, issue 5, introduces a modified editorial structure. Two of our Editorial Board members, H.J. Cleaves and J. Peter Gogarten, will be assuming Executive Editor positions. Since its inception, Origins of Life has been a one-man operation, with, successively, Cyril Ponnamperuma, Jim Ferris, and myself as Editors. In today’s world of increasing specialization, it is becoming increasingly difficult for one editor to be sufficiently familiar with the entire breath of the journal’s coverage, or to easily identify and contact appropriate reviewers for every manuscript which is submitted. The new Executive Editors will act independently to stimulate, evaluate, and reach final decisions on new submissions within their areas of expertize. Jim Cleaves has a background in prebiotic chemistry, geochemistry and astrobiology. He is associated with the Geophysical Laboratory of the Carnegie Institution of Science, in Washington, D.C. Peter Gogarten is a specialist in Molecular and Early Biological Evolution, and is a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT. I am delighted that I will able to rely on their increased involvement in OLEB in the future. Alan W. Schwartz, Editor-in-Chief, Origins of Life and Evolution of Biospheres.
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  • The Gordon Research Conference on Origin of Life 2012 took place at the Hotel Galvez in Galveston, TX from January 8-13, 2012. Visit the website.
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  • The December 2010 issue of Astrobiology Journal, featured Dr. David Deamer’s art work on the front cover. Additionally,in this issue several ISSOLians present their work.
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  • Dr. Jeff Bada delivered the First Annual Stanley L. Miller Memorial Lecture at UCSD.
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  • Dr. Gerald Joyce was honored by the NAS as the recipient of the first Stanley Miller Medal in Early Earth and Life Sciences. We are happy to congratulate Dr. Joyce in his accomplishments and in this medal in recognition of his origin of life work. More here.
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  • Origins 2011, the first joint meeting between ISSOL the International Astrobiology Society and Bioastronomy is well underway. The Local Organizing Committee has found a wonderful venue and is doing a great job of organizing a culturally, as well as scientifically, exciting meeting. Of most importance, The Scientific Organizing Committee is putting together a stimulating interdisciplinary program in bioastronomy/astrobiology, covering the field from exoplanets to early life on Earth.  We urge you to bring the conference to the attention of the scientific societies to which you belong, so that it will be added to their meeting calendars, and also to inform your own colleagues.