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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

June 3, 2022. "Genes in Space Competition" has just announced that Vedant Karalkar, an Eastside High School student being mentored at the Foundation, was selected as one of five finalists in an annual national contest where high school students propose DNA science experiments for the International Space Station. One winner will be selected next month to fly their experiment to the Space Station. Good luck Vedant.

May 19, 2022. In a study led by Elisa Biondi, Foundation scientists reported today that ribonucleic acid (RNA) spontaneously forms on basalt lava glass, which was abundant on Earth 4.35 billion years ago. RNA is an analog of DNA that is thought to have been the first genetic material for life. The finding was supported by many experiments that ruled out alternative structures, including branched RNA structures. Similar basalts were also abundant on Mars, suggesting that similar processes may have occurred there.

December 11, 2021. To be aired on the History Channel next week, an episode of UnXplained has FfAME's Steven Benner discussing the possibility of life on Mars with William Shatner, recent astronaut and, on the small and large screen, James Tiberius Kirk.

December 3, 2021. A news report this week discusses work from the Foundation collaborator Jan Špaček in deepening our understanding of potential life on Venus.

November 22, 2021. Scheduled for December 7, Steven Benner and William Shatner will discuss why life is likely to have emerged on Mars, and how we would detect it, in an episode of The UnXplained, hosted by "Captain Kirk".

July 19, 2021. Steven Benner was interviewed by Richard Jacobs on the Finding Genius podcast.

July 12, 2021. The Foundation's work with expanded DNA was just cited in Quanta Magazine, together with the discovery that some viruses on Earth us different kinds of DNA.

Press Coverage

WCJB - Gainesville: Vedant Karalkar, a local student being mentored at the Foundation, became a finalist in the "Genes in Space" competition
June 3, 2022

Chemistry World: FfAME researcher Elisa Biondi gives input on how mineral surfaces promoted variation in prebiotic RNA.
March 5, 2019

The New York Times: Work at the FfAME was the topic of an article by the noted science journalist Carl Zimmer in today's New York Times.
February 21, 2019

LifeScience: LiveScience reviewed today recent work done at the FfAME and Firebird Biomolecular Sciences expanding the DNA genetic alphabet.
February 21, 2019

ChemistryWorld: Katrina Kramer writes about how FfAME's 8-letter genetic code hints at how alien life might evolve
February 21, 2019

ORF.at Science: Austrian news outlet ORF.at details research at FfAME and Firebird Biomolecular Sciences that was recently published in Science.
February 21, 2019

Popular Mechanics: Steven Benner is featured in an article about how a maelstrom of molten iron could have been the basis for life on Earth.
January 15, 2019

Science Magazine: Research from FfAME's 2018 OOL Atlanta Conference is highlighted in a discussion on the RNA first model of the origins of life.
January 11, 2019

New Scientist: Work at the Foundation on the origin of life was a focus of a piece by Penny Sarchet in the June 2018 edition of New Scientist.
June 13, 2018

National Public Radio: Steven Benner was interviewed on NPR where pioneering efforts at the FfAME expanding the genetic alphabet were acknowledged.
November 29, 2017

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