Life persists far from equilibrium. But non-equilibrium conditions on the microscale are difficult to handle experimentally. We aim to create experimental living systems bottom up in the lab by studying and combining temperature, pH and UV gradients. More specifically, we will study how hybridization of RNA can give raise to basic replication and selection from a random sequence pool in a thermal trap. It will be especially interesting whether an autonomous Selex process with PCR can be implemented in a temperature gradient. Central to all the projects is how geological nonequilibrium conditions can give raise to unexpected minimal metabolism and can lead to archaic forms of molecular life.
Dieter Braun is an associate professor in the Department of Physics at the Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich. He received a Diploma and PhD in Physics, working with Peter Fromherz at the MPI for Biochemistry. After working as DFG Scholar at Rockefeller University with Albert Libchaber, he led his own Emmy Noether group on biomolecule thermophoresis and thermal trapping in Munich, leading to the award winning Startup company NanoTemper (50 employees) founded by two of his first PhD students. The company uses thermophoresis to quantify biomolecule binding in complex liquids. He has received the Schloessmann Award in Optical Methods in Modern Biology and recently the Klung-Wilhelmy Weberbank price, Germany’s highest paying biannual award for physicists younger than 40.