Emergence of functional proto-polymers
Since the prehistoric times, people have pondered how life came to exist. This question continues to engage scientists from diverse fields, including biology, chemistry, geology, physics, and astronomy. The analysis of plausible routes that led to the origin of life on Earth naturally confers broad implications to our understanding of whether this was a singular event of low probability to repeat itself, and if (and where) new forms of life might be found. Numerous long-standing questions in research of origins of life center on the history of extant biopolymers. In my lab we address the question of how nature selected the polypeptide backbone and proteinogenic side chains. We study how chemistry led to complex life and aim to bridge the gap between today’s biochemistry and the chemical principles that led to emergence of life on Earth during the era of chemical evolution about four billion years ago.
Taming chemical evolution for fabrication of biodegradable polymers
In our lab we emulate the environment that gave rise to the polymers of life and harness the creative power of chemical evolution towards development of evolvable functional polymers in the laboratory. By changing the parameters that dictate the generation of these polymers we create a rich library of much needed functional polymers. Overall, our goals are to chemically evolve functional polymers through non-enzymatic processes, and to advance our knowledge in analysis and taming of complex chemical systems. For example, we generate, evolve and select novel functional polymers that are designed to degrade in living organisms, and that specifically bind to and stabilize nucleic acids. Development of biodegradable polymers that bind and stabilize nucleic acids for various pharmaceutical and biotechnological applications is of high importance, e.g for RNA-based therapeutics.