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Georgia Tech awarded a $20M Center for Chemical Innovation from NSF and NASA
Date:8/2/2010

A team of institutions led by the Georgia Institute of Technology has been awarded a $20 million grant from the National Science Foundation and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to pursue research that could lead to a better understanding of how life started on Earth. Researchers will focus their efforts on exploring chemical processes that enable the spontaneous formation of functional polymers -- such as proteins and DNA -- from much smaller and simpler starting materials.

"Our research team seeks to understand how certain molecules in a complex mixture can work together to form highly ordered assemblies that exhibit chemical properties similar to those associated with biological molecules," said Nicholas V. Hud, a professor in the Georgia Tech School of Chemistry and Biochemistry. "Such a process was likely an essential and early stage of life, so we are also working to understand what chemicals were present on the prebiotic Earth and what processes helped these chemicals form the complex substances ultimately needed for life."

Hud will direct the effort, which is known as the Center for Chemical Evolution. The five-year grant will support research in more than 15 laboratories at institutions including Georgia Tech, Emory University, the Scripps Research Institute, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Jackson State University, Spelman College, Furman University and the SETI Institute.

All of the researchers will work together to accomplish the Center for Chemical Evolution's three main research goals:

  • To identify potential biological building blocks among the products of model prebiotic reactions,
  • To investigate the chemical components and conditions that promote the spontaneous assembly of increasingly complex multi-component structures, and
  • To prepare and characterize highly-ordered chemical assemblies, and to study their potential to function like biological substances.

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Contact: Abby Vogel Robinson
abby@innovate.gatech.edu
404-385-3364
Georgia Institute of Technology Research News
Source:Eurekalert  

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