Origins of life: Working group receives high funding

Jul 18, 2018

The group of Prof. Thomas Carell from the Department of Chemistry of the LMU has won a million-dollar grant from the Volkswagen Foundation.

Image: Jezper /

The funds of 1.1 million euros will be used over a period of five years to research the origins of life. Researchers focus on the process that took place within the phase of chemical evolution that preceded biological evolution. During this chemical evolution, the central building blocks of life developed, eventually merging into more complex structures such as RNA and peptides. By interacting these molecules with each other, they accelerated their own formation - a process that takes place today on the ribosomes, such that amino acid-carrying RNAs (tRNA) bind to an RNA-protein complex - the ribosome - that catalyzes the formation of peptide bonds. That's when the genotype creates its phenotype to enable its own replication. The researchers around Carell want to explore the origin of this central and now universal process by pointing out prebiotically plausible pathways that lead to the formation first of protoribosomes and then ribosomes. They also want to learn how complex molecular machines evolve based on simple starting materials. These then took the step from chemistry to living matter. The results should show how life could develop in the early days of the earth under the appropriate circumstances.

Founded in 1961 in Hannover, the Volkswagen Foundation promotes science and technology in research and teaching. It enables research projects in promising areas and helps scientific institutions to improve the structural conditions for their work. She devotes special attention to young scientists and the collaboration of researchers beyond scientific, cultural and national boundaries.