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Two Scripps Research Institute Professors Named Simons Investigators to Pursue Research on the Origins of Life

LA JOLLA, CA – July 9, 2013 – Professors Donna Blackmond, PhD, and Gerald Joyce, MD, PhD, of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have been named Simons Investigators for the Collaboration on the Origins of Life, sponsored by the Simons Foundation, a New York-based nonprofit organization established in 1994 to advance the frontiers of research in mathematics and basic sciences.

“Congratulations to Donna and Jerry,” said Michael A. Marletta, president and CEO of The Scripps Research Institute. “Thanks to the support of the Simons Foundation, I look forward to new insights from their labs into one of our great mysteries—the origins of life.”

The 15-member international Simons collaboration aims to support creative, innovative research in 10 topic areas concerning the processes that led to the emergence of life on the planet Earth, including the development of prebiotic chemistry and RNA replication. Blackmond and Joyce each will receive $2 million of research funding from the Simons Foundation over the next five years.

Blackmond’s project focuses on chirality—the structural characteristic of a molecule that makes it impossible to superimpose it on its mirror image—and the likely prebiotic conditions that may have led to single chirality as a precursor to enhanced molecular complexity. Blackmond is a professor in the TSRI Department of Chemistry.

Joyce’s project involves experimental studies that seek to determine the minimum amount of information required to provide replicating, evolving systems that have the ongoing capacity to accrue more information. Joyce is a professor in the TSRI Department of Cell and Molecular Biology.

About The Scripps Research Institute

The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) is one of the world's largest independent, not-for-profit organizations focusing on research in the biomedical sciences. TSRI is internationally recognized for its contributions to science and health, including its role in laying the foundation for new treatments for cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, hemophilia, and other diseases. An institution that evolved from the Scripps Metabolic Clinic founded by philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps in 1924, the institute now employs about 3,000 people on its campuses in La Jolla, CA, and Jupiter, FL, where its renowned scientists—including two Nobel laureates—work toward their next discoveries. The institute's graduate program, which awards PhD degrees in biology and chemistry, ranks among the top ten of its kind in the nation. For more information, see www.scripps.edu.

About the Simons Foundation

The Simons Foundation is a private foundation based in New York City. The Foundation’s mission is to advance the frontiers of research in mathematics and the basic sciences, sponsoring a range of programs that aim to promote a deeper understanding of our world. Since its founding in 1994, the Simons Foundation has supported institutions and investigators in mathematics, the physical sciences, theoretical computer science, the life sciences, and, in 2006, undertook an autism research initiative, called SFARI. Please see SimonsFoundation.org and SFARI.org for more information.

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