Synthetic biologists, in their more “chemical” activities, seek to create molecules that reproduce the more complicated behaviors of living system, including replication, adaptation, and evolution. The ultimate goal is to create, from the bottom up, “synthetic life”, a grand challenge that cannot help but teach us about the intimate connection between chemical reactivity and the living state. This talk will present our most recent results creating artificial genetic systems, where organic chemistry has delivered non-standard DNA-like molecules that support replication, adaptation, and evolution.
Biography of Speaker:
Steven Benner is a Distinguished Fellow in The Westheimer Institute at the Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution, which he founded after serving on the faculty at Harvard, the ETH Zurich, and the University of Florida. His research crosses the physical and life sciences, informatics, and planetary science. His laboratory was the first to redesign DNA to create artificial genetic systems, organize genome sequence databases according to their natural histories, successfully predict protein folds from sequence data, and resurrect ancestral proteins from extinct organisms. These contributed to several emerging fields in science, including synthetic biology, paleogenetics, evolutionary bioinformatics, planetary biology, evolutionary medicine, and astrobiology. His work helped launch two biotechnology companies, led to diagnostic tools that personalize the care of 400,000 patients each year suffering from HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C infections, and guides NASA missions seeking alien life. His most recent book is entitled: "Life, the Universe, and the Scientific Method."