Winners of Harry Lonsdale’s $50,000 Origin of Life Challenge announced
In mid-2011, retired California chemist and entrepreneur Harry Lonsdale issued a challenge to the origin of life scientific community to come up with novel ideas for explaining the mechanism of life’s origin, through the Origin of Life Challenge
Larry Krauss, director of the Origins Project at Arizona State University is a collaborator. RNA world swept the pay wicket:
Co-winners of the $50,000 prize in response to the Origin of Life Challenge were two British chemists, John Sutherland at the Medical Research Council Laboratory in Molecular Biology, Cambridge, and Matthew Powner at University College, London. They also received a $150,000 one-year grant to pursue their research in the field.
The Sutherland-Powner team is focused on understanding the chemistry of the replication mechanism of first life. All biological replication is based on the nucleic acid polymers RNA and DNA, which carry the genetic code. The team seeks to demonstrate the selective generation of the RNA building blocks and other key biological molecules from simple feedstock molecules under the presumed environmental conditions of pre-biotic Earth. If successful, the Sutherland-Powner team will have demonstrated how RNA could have emerged from plausible chemical reactions on the early Earth.
A $90,000 one-year grant was also made to a joint Canadian-U.S. team consisting of Niles Lehman of Portland State University, Portland, Ore.; Peter Unrau of Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada; and Paul Higgs of McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. That team will explore the ways in which potential information stored within random pieces of RNA can spontaneously assemble into sets of self-replicating molecules.
The Lehman-Unrau-Higgs team will mix large pools containing small fragments of non-functional RNA under a range of plausible pre-biotic conditions, …
The wonderful thing about the whole business is that Lonsdale is doing it with his own money, not yours. If they don’t get anywhere, you lose nothing.
It would have been handwaving, but they ran out of hands
“RNA World” hits a brick wall
For Larry Krauss, see “Physicists attack philosphy when they are no longer doing good physics”
Here’s more of the Kraussian distribution
Hat tip: Chunkdz at Telic Thoughts