Ramanarayanan Krishnamurthy, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Chemistry, Scripps Research Institute

SCOL Project: An Alternative Approach to Prebiotic Building Blocks Using DAP Phosphorylation Chemistries

The process by which biomolecules, such as RNA and proteins, emerged on the early Earth continues to be an enigma, and defining a complete pathway for the prebiotic synthesis of the building blocks of biology from simple starting materials remains a challenge. Research in our group is focused on the use of synthetic organic chemistry to experimentally address questions with respect to the formation of molecules that have the potential to lead to the emergence of functional polymers. We consider a wide array of possible chemical processes and pathways under prebiotic constraints that would have been possible on the early Earth to generate molecular building blocks, from which we identify alternative molecular structures that have the potential to undergo chemical reactions and transformations to form structures of interest in the context of origins-of-life research. We synthesize these molecules and study their properties. Based on the results, we investigate further the potential of selected molecular structures to be able to transform themselves, or mediate the transformation of other molecules, to the biomolecules that exist in life today.

Ramanarayanan Krishnamurthy received his B.Sc. in chemistry from Vivekananda College (University of Madras) and M.Sc. in chemistry from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Bombay. He obtained his Ph.D. from The Ohio State University (OSU), under the guidance of David Hart, working on free radical chemistry applications to organic synthesis and methodology. Influenced by an enchanting lecture at OSU by Albert Eschenmoser on the chemical etiology of nucleic acid structure, he did his postdoctoral work at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zürich with Eschenmoser, working on alternative nucleic acids and analogs of RNA. He then continued the work as a NASA-NSCORT fellow with Gustaf Arrhenius at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, investigating mineral catalyzed reactions leading to synthesis of sugar phosphates. He then rejoined Eschenmoser at the Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, resulting in a 13-year collaborative partnership. He is currently an associate professor of chemistry at the Scripps Research Institute.

Krishnamurthy is a scientific collaborator with the Center for Chemical Evolution at the Georgia Institute of Technology and has been appointed as a co-lead of the Prebiotic Chemistry and Early Earth Environments (PCE3) Consortium, one of the five Research Coordination Networks within the NASA Astrobiology Program.

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