ORIGINS OF LIFE WORKSHOP
 ATLANTA OCTOBER 14-17
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UPDATED TENTATIVE SCHEDULE

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 14
Registration will be open 6-8 pm
 
MONDAY, OCTOBER 15
 
09:00 Introductory WelcomeSteven Benner. Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution.
 
Monday Morning. Why we want RNA
 
09:05 Principal Investigator PresentationElisa Biondi. Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution.
Selection of receptors, ligands, and catalysts from an expanded genetic alphabet.
 
09:40 Special InviteeJennifer Heemstra. Emory University.
Evolution of artificial genetic polymers capable of small-molecule recognition.
 
10:10 Special InviteeDavid Perrin.  University of British Columbia.
Selection of RNase A-mimicking DNAzymes with amines, imidazoles, and guanidines.
 
10:40 Break 15 min
 
10:55 Special InviteeAda Yonath. Weizmann Institute.
Recent advances in functional RNA.
 
11:40 Panel-Audience DialogWhy is it difficult to get robust function from oligo libraries?
 
12:20 Lunch 
 
Monday Afternoon. Geology  

14:00 Principal Investigator PresentationSteven Benner. Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution.
Why RNA-first life could not have emerged on Earth. Paradox construction in origins research.
 
14:40 Special InviteeRobert Hazen. Carnegie Institution for Science.
(Tentative) Mineralogy of the Hadean.
 
15:10 Principal Investigator PresentationStephen Mojzsis. University of Colorado.
Unexpected expectations in the quest to understand life's emergence on the Hadean Earth.
 
15:30 Break 15 min
 
15:45 Special InviteeRamon Brasser. ELSI & Tokyo Institute of Technology.
When was the Earth ready to host life?
 
16:15 Special InviteeElizabeth Bell. UCLA
Evidence from the zircon record for early Earth environments.
 
16:45 Special InviteeDustin Trail. University of Rochester.
How can Hadean (> 4 Ga) zircons help us constrain prebiotic environments.
 
17:15 Panel-Audience DialogWhat must we do to make our view of the Hadean more complete?
 
18:00 Break for Dinner 
 
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 16
 
Tuesday Morning. Complexity and cofactors.
 
09:00 Principal Investigator PresentationGeorge Fox. University of Houston.
Exploration of RNA sequence space in the absence of a replicase.
 
09:40 Special InviteeClemens Richert. University of Stuttgart.
The Peptido RNA World.
 
10:20 Break 15 min
 
10:35 Principal Investigator PresentationNiles Lehman. Portland State University.
What complexity in biopolymers is needed for the transition to life?
 
11:20 Panel-Audience Dialog: How to explore "cofactor space" effectively.
 
12:00 Lunch
 
Tuesday Afternoon. Prebiotic chemistry for RNA and alternatives
 
14:00 Principal Investigator PresentationHyo-Joong Kim. Firebird Biomolecular Sciences.
The organic chemistry of RNA building blocks.
 
14:30 Special InviteeThomas Carell. Ludwig Maximilian University.
The origin of canonical and non-canonical nucleosides.
 
15:00 Special InviteeMatthew Powner. University College London.
Prebiotic selection and assembly of peptides and nucleotides.
 
15:30 Break 15 min
 
15:45 Special InviteeDavid Fialho. Georgia Institute of Technology.
Considering Alternative Sugars and Bases: A Case for Pre-RNA.
 
16:15 Special InviteeRam Krishnamurthy. The Scripps Research Institute.
RNA may not be the first, but we need to understand whether it can be formed prebiotically.
 
16:45 Panel-Audience DialogCan we solve the RNA building block problem?
 
17:45 Pick up boxed dinner in lobby and board bus to Fernbank. Departure at 6pm.
 
19:00 Fernbank Planetarium presentation
 
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 17
 
Wednesday Morning.  Phosphates
 
09:00 Principal Investigator PresentationAndrew Ellington. University of Texas.
Evolving replicators based on phosphorothioate backbones.
 
09:40 Special InviteeTuomas Lönnberg. University of Turku.
Phosphorothioate oligonucleotides by condensation of nucleosides and phosphorous acid in the presence of elemental sulfur.

10:10 Special InviteeMatthew Pasek. University of South Florida.
Phosphorylation of nucleosides.
 
10:40 Break 15 min
 
Tools 
 
10:55 Principal Investigator PresentationAndrej Luptak. UC Irvine.
Towards RNA-catalyzed ATP synthesis.

11:30 Principal Investigator PresentationSourav Roy. UNC Chapel Hill.
Dissecting oligopeptide-oligonucleotide interactions: leads from laboratory evolution.
 
12:00 Lunch
 
Wednesday Afternoon. Immediate and future developments
 
14:00 Special InviteeChosen from the attendees.
To be announced.
 
14:30 Special InviteeChosen from the attendees.
To be announced.
 
15:00 Panel-Audience DialogWhat are the next steps in prebiotic research?
 
16:00 pm Adjourn
 
 
Remarks
A. This is not your normal conference. We will be adjusting the program in real time as events during the workshop suggest it should be adjusted. We have left a slot open for a presentation from an attendee.
B. Participants in the Panel-Audience discussions will be self-selected, on stage and from the audience. Their purpose is to get the best minds in this field away from their PowerPoints and talking interactively with each other about the problems at hand. Models for such discussions include:
(a) The 2002 Astrobiology meeting at NASA Ames. The schedule was cleared to allow Bill Schopf and Martin Brasier to debate the biogenicity of carbon material in Australian cherts, with the floor open for remarks from an expert audience; the format proved remarkably effective (Nature 417, 782 (2002)).
(b) A workshop in the 1970s discussing the latest data from analyses of Moon rocks. Participants went into the conference not knowing how the Moon was formed, but came out with a consensus model for how the Moon was formed  Cameron, A. G. W.; Ward, W. R. (March 1976). "The Origin of the Moon". Abstracts of the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference. 7: 120–122. Bibcode:1976LPI.....7..120C.
We would like very much to walk out of this workshop with, if not a solution to the prebiotic synthesis of oligomeric RNA, then at least a clear understanding of where the remaining problems are and how we should approach solving them. Or, of course, that they cannot be solved at all, because life emerged in a different way.


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