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Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution

The last half century of medical research has placed chemical structures behind much of biology, including human disease, the human genome, and the origin of life. Scientists at the Foundation have contributed broadly to these activities through innovative and polydisciplinary research in fields as diverse as chemistry, informatics, biology, geology, and astronomy. We are now taking the next steps, to place biological chemistry within its larger "systems" context, from the cell to the organism, and from there to the ecosystem and the planet. Emerging from this are new tools for systems biology and personalized medicine, as well as answers to some "big" questions: Where did we come from? What is our future? Are we alone?

Latest News and Events

December 18, 2014. The American Association for the Advancement of Science has just announced the election of Steven A. Benner as one of its 2014 Fellows. Steven Benner is President and Distinguished Fellow at the Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution (FfAME), a nonprofit research organization in Gainesville. In support of its awarding this prestigious honor by America's oldest scientific society, the AAAS cited Dr. Benner's pioneering work in many fields, including paleogenetics, synthetic biology, evolutionary bioinformatics, human medicine, and space exploration. Dr. Benner joins six other Fellows elected this year from the Gainesville scientific community, including Cammy Abernathy, Robert Cousins, Andrew Hanson, Ann Progulske-Fox, and Wolfgang M. Sigmund, all at the University of Florida, and Bruce McFadden, also at the Florida Museum of Natural History.

December 1, 2014. Matthew Carrigan, Steven Benner, and their colleagues at the Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution recently resurrected proteins that oxidize alcohol in the digestive tracts of now-extinct primates dating back some 80 million years. The behaviors of these ancient proteins suggest that our primate ancestors acquired the ability to metabolize digested alcohol at the same time as they descended from the trees to walk on the ground, where they could pick up fruit that had fallen, suffered damage to its husk, and therefore became infected with fermenting yeast. The Science magazine news piece can be found here.

September 22, 2014. Japanese television described last week work being done at the Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution on the role of minerals and their elements on the origin of life on earth, the potential for life elsewhere in the solar system.

May 4, 2014. At 7:00 PM on May 22, Steven Benner will be presenting a public lecture in Seattle (Kane Hall), on the subject: Finding Alien Life. On Earth, on Mars, and throughout the Cosmos.

The event is free and open to the public. Pre-registration is encouraged to guarantee seating.

Abstract: How do we define "life"? This fundamental question has remained largely philosophical, because it has been asked for so long, by so many, and with so few concrete conclusions. In this talk, Dr. Benner will take a different tack. He will show how laboratory studies to create a second example of life help us develop a firmer scientific understanding of what life is. The challenge of "synthetic biology" is on! Dr. Benner will discuss how we are hitchhiking on rockets, rovers, and telescopes to find life elsewhere in the Solar System, and will describe how his research team is working to develop that second example of life in laboratories here on Earth, one step at a time.

March 21, 2014. Steven Benner, Distinguished Fellow at the FfAME, will give the "Beyond Lecture" at Arizona State University, Neeb Hall, at 7:30 PM. Previous lecturers have included the biologist Richard Dawkins, physicist Freeman Dyson, and Nobel Laureate Frank Wilczek. Afterwards, Dr. Benner will sign copies of his book "Life, the Universe, and the Scientific Method". For more information, visit the ASU Beyond website or see Synthetic biologist to discuss creating life in the lab at ASU lecture.

January 24, 2014. FfAME scientists announced in December the joining of its artificial genetic system with Darwinian evolution. Stuart Dambrot reviews this work for the public at phys.org.

January 17, 2014. Science magazine has just reviewed recent work at the Foundation on the need for dry land as a venue for the origin of life.

Press Coverage

Malaria Nexus: The Malaria Genome Exploration Tool (MaGnET)
September 20, 2013

LiveScience: LiveScience and arsenic-based life
February 1, 2012

Chemical and Engineering News: More on arsenic-based life
January 23, 2012

BBC News: Searching for the origins of life... and our future
November 7, 2011

Odyssey Magazine: The Alien Discovery that Wasn't
June 27, 2011

Chemical & Engineering News: Arsenic Bacterium Debate Continues
June 6, 2011

New Scientist: Arsenic-based bacteria: Fact or fiction?
May 27, 2011

New York Times: A Romp Into Theories of the Cradle of Life
February 21, 2011

Tech News World: Weird Earthly Life-Form Means Rethinking the Hunt for ET
February 21, 2011

MSNBC: Definition of life: Arsenic debate just won't die
February 18, 2011

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