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Research Scientist

Elisa Biondi

Education and work:

  • BS in Molecular Biology, 110/110 Magna Cum Laude, University of Bologna, Italy (2002)
  • PhD in Genetics/Astrobiology, University of Florence, Italy (2007)
  • Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Astrobiology & RNA Biochemistry, University of Missouri-Columbia (2007-2012)
  • Senior Scientist/Fellow at the Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution (FfAME), with a joint appointment at Firebird Biomolecular Sciences, LLC, in Alachua, Florida. (2012-present)

Research Summary:

My research focuses on two main topics: the prebiotic evolution of informational molecules and their building blocks in the context of the study of the origins of life in the universe (astrobiology), and the evolution of nucleic acids with expanded and modified genetic alphabets for biomedical and biotechnological applications.

Current projects include:

  • The in-vitro evolution and characterization of catalytic molecules from standard and expanded nucleic acid libraries carrying modified nucleotides from an Artificially Expanded Genetic Information System (AEGIS), to understand sequence dynamics and information requirements during the prebiotic evolution of informational macromolecules.
  • The study of the interaction between mineral/geological surfaces and RNA molecules in prebiotic environments, including the prebiotic synthesis of RNA precursors and the chiral selection of RNA enantiomers.
  • The in-vitro evolution and characterization of aptamers and ribozymes from nucleic acid libraries containing modified and expanded genetic alphabets for the development of molecular tools for biomedical and biotechnological applications.
  • Testing of RNA and DNA polymerases, kinases, and other enzymes evolved/modified to accept non-natural nucleotides from the AEGIS pool.

Recent Publications

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When Did Life Likely Emerge on Earth in an RNA-First Process?
S. A. Benner, E. A. Bell, E. Biondi, R. Brasser, T. Carell, H.-J. Kim, S. J. Mojzsis, A. Omran, M. A. Pasek, D. Trail
ChemSystemsChem 2 , Chemistry Europe (2020) e1900035
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Prebiotic Chemistry that Could Not Not Have Happened
Benner S.A., Kim H.-J., and Biondi E.
Life 9 (4) , MDPI 84 (2019) https://doi.org/10.3390/life9040084
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Artificially Expanded Genetic Information Systems for New Aptamer Technologies
Elisa Biondi and Steven A. Benner
Biomedicines , MDPI (2018) 6, 53; doi:10.3390/biomedicines6020053
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Mineral-Organic Interactions in Prebiotic Synthesis. The Discontinuous Synthesis Model for the Formation of RNA in Naturally Complex Geological Environments.
Steven A. Benner, Hyo-Joong Kim, and Elisa Biondi
Nucl. Acids & Mol. Bio. 35 , Springer 31-83 (2018) https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-93584-3_3
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Adsorption of RNA on mineral surfaces and mineral precipitates
Elisa Biondi, Yoshihiro Furukawa, Jun Kawai, and Steven A. Benner
Beilstein J. Org. Chem. , Beilstein Institute (2017) 13, 393-404
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Laboratory evolution of artificially expanded DNA gives redesignable aptamers that target the toxic form of anthrax protective antigen
Biondi E, Lane JD, Das D, Dasgupta S, Piccirilli JA, Hoshika S, Bradley KM, Krantz BA, Benner SA
Nucl. Acids Res. (2016) Oct 3. pii: gkw890. PubMed PMID: 27701076
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Opal Absorbs and Stabilizes RNA - A Hierarchy of Prebiotic Silica Minerals
Biondi, E.; Howell, L.; Benner, S.A.
SynLett (2016) 27, A-E
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RNA structural analysis by enzymatic digestion
Biondi E., Burke D.H.
Methods Mol Biol , Springer (2014) 1086:41-52

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Potent Inhibition of HIV-1 Reverse Transcriptase and Replication by Nonpseudoknot, "UCAA-motif" RNA Aptamers
Whatley A.S., Ditzler M.A., Lange M.J., Biondi E., Sawyer A.W., Chang J.L., Franken J.D., Burke D.H.
Mol Ther Nucleic Acids , Nature (2013) 2:e71

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Lewis acid catalysis of phosphoryl transfer from a copper(II)-NTP complex in a kinase ribozyme
Biondi E., Poudyal R.R., Forgy J.C., Sawyer A.W., Maxwell A.W., Burke D.H
Nucl. Acids Res. (2013) 41(5):3327-38

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