New Collaborative Research Centre on the origins of molecular evolution

The new Collaborative Research Center (CRC) TRR 392 "Molecular Evolution in Prebiotic Environments", a collaboration between Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMU) and the Technical University of Munich (TUM), will start in April 2024. The scientists involved, including several from the ORIGINS Cluster, are researching the very first steps in the development of life on Earth. The focus is on how molecules evolved in a prebiotic world and produced the first life information in sequence form.

Prof. Dr. Dieter Braun. Image: C. Hohmann

In the search for the origin of life, the big questions remain: How could molecules become the first cells in the early Earth period and thus set the chemical evolution in motion? To find answers to these questions, the CRC/Transregio "Molecular Evolution in Prebiotic Environments" brings together researchers from the geosciences, chemistry, biophysics, theoretical physics and astrophysics. Together, they want to investigate, among other things, which chemical, physical and geological conditions are required to trigger the molecular evolution with RNA as the carrier molecule. The findings may also be relevant for studying early life on other planets.

"Such an interdisciplinary approach is unique in this field”, says ORIGINS scientist Dieter Braun (LMU), the new Collaborative Research Center spokesperson. Only in this way will we be able to close gaps in our knowledge and shed light on the history of chemical evolution.

Several of the projects that will tackle the CRC's core topics from April 2024 will be led by ORIGINS researchers: In addition to Dieter Braun, these are Petra Schwille (MPIB), Oliver Trapp (LMU), Ulrich Gerland (TUM) and Barbara Ercolano (LMU). They are investigating, for example, which chemical, physical and geological conditions are necessary to trigger the molecular evolution of RNA and to create and preserve the first genetic information. In addition, the scientists want to develop new biotechnological approaches and let molecular evolution play out autonomously in a synthetic system. The experiments will also shed light on how the preconditions for early life could be defined on other planets.

LMU press release.

DFG press release (in German).


Prof. Dr. Dieter Braun
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich / Excellence Cluster ORIGINS
email: Dieter.Braun(at)physik.uni-mü