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.

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