Ramanarayanan Krishnamurthy named co-leader of NASA program to study chemical origins of life

February 14, 2019

LA JOLLA, CA — Scripps Research professor Ramanarayanan Krishnamurthy, PhD, has been named co-leader of a new NASA initiative to investigate how life emerged from Earth’s early environments.

The initiative, called the Prebiotic Chemistry and Early Earth Environments (PCE3) Consortium, will explore the chemical processes that occurred on early Earth and the advent of the first biological molecules and pathways, leading to the emergence of systems harboring the potential for life.

The initiative is one of five networks with a new NASA program called Astrobiology Research and Coordinated Networks (RCN), which seeks to understand the emergence and early evolution of life and inform the search for life in and beyond our solar system.

“With this visionary program NASA is focusing on the age-old and vitally important question of the origins of life, and I am honored to be the co-leader of this research network,” says Krishnamurthy, an associate professor of chemistry at Scripps Research. “Scientists have long theorized about how life began on this planet, and what conditions are required for it to exist on other planets, and we now have the opportunity to make great progress on answering this question.”

Other co-leaders of the Prebiotic Chemistry and the Early Earth Environments Consortium are from Georgia Tech, the University of California, Riverside, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The PCE3 Consortium complements the collaboration between NASA’s Astrobiology Program and the National Science Foundation that led to the development the Center for Chemical Evolution (CCE), where Krishnamurthy is a scientific collaborator.

Astrobiology is the multidisciplinary study of the origin, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe. This discipline is increasingly playing a central role in NASA’s science mission to search for life beyond Earth. To better serve this role, NASA has created a new programmatic infrastructure of five Research Coordination Networks (RCNs) with the NASA Astrobiology Program. The prototype RCN, the Nexus for Exoplanet System Science (NExSS), was organized in 2015, and the Network for Life Detection (NfoLD) was announced in late 2018. The PCE3 Consortium will be followed by two additional RCNs planned for 2019. For more information about this initiative, see the NASA astrobiology program website and FAQs.  

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