Georgia Tech Hosts NASA Astrobiology Institute Meeting
On January 20-21, 2011, the Center for Ribosomal Origins and Evolution (RiboEvo), is hosting the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) Executive Council at the Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience on the campus of the Georgia Institute of Technology. The NAI is a partnership between NASA and teams located at academic institutions, research laboratories and NASA centers across the country.
The NAI Executive Council is comprised of the NAI Director, Carl Pilcher, Ph.D., Deputy Director, Edward Goolish, Ph.D. and the directors of the fourteen NAI teams from across the country. The purpose of the meeting is to evaluate and discuss new opportunities for NAI-wide research, space mission activities, technological development, and external partnerships.
The Georgia Tech NAI center, RiboEvo, was established in February 2009 with a five year grant of 6.4 million dollars from NASA. RiboEvo is lead by the center's director, Loren D. Williams, Ph.D., professor in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry. RiboEvo is a multidisciplinary research center and is comprised of scientists from Georgia Tech, Emory University, John Hopkins University, the University of California at Santa Cruz and the University of Houston.
Although dispersed throughout the country, together these NAI teams work collaboratively to integrate interdisciplinary research and education in astrobiology with the goal of rewinding the tape of life. The idea being if you can understand the origin and evolution of life on earth you can then anticipate the nature of it across the universe.
RiboEvo investigators specifically focus on research surrounding the ribosome, the oldest molecular assembly in biology. Using the ribosome, RiboEvo performs molecular paleontology or mining of biophysical and inorganic chemistry from ancient biological systems.
“The ribosome tells the story of some of life’s aboriginal molecules, assemblies and chemical reactions,” Williams said. “Understanding the ribosome will uncover clues in the transition from the RNA world to the RNA-DNA-protein world.”
The work from this research center carries the potential of discovering and characterizing the oldest traceable macromolecules and machines of life, as well as the earliest discernable connection between RNA and protein.