Dieter Braun: Recreating the Origin of Life

Systems Biophysics | Academic Year 2017/2018

Every person asks themselves the apparently simple question: where do we come from? How did life originate? How can we address such complex issues while only having access to fragments of the process? Through the technical and experimental developments of recent years, it is now possible to derive answers and to address this question more precisely and with a sound scholarly basis. Instead of simply collecting facts, biological systems can now be directly tested by synthetically reconstructing them. Parallel to this, biology is currently undergoing a paradigm shift, developing from a purely descriptive to a quantifying science. Modern methods from chemistry, astronomy, geology and physics can be combined, thus enabling the experimental confirmation or rejection of very specific hypotheses.

The CAS research group led by Dieter Braun is concerned with thermodynamic imbalances which drive the transformation of non-living material into emerging molecules. To be specific, thermal gradients in rock pores on a micro scale are used to drive the selection and replication of the first molecules which produced the first cycles of Darwinian evolution. This research, however, is merely a small piece of the puzzle in the reconstruction of the history of the solar system and the Earth, which will be modified further in the course of continued research. The aim of the group is to produce a coherent picture in the laboratory of the origination of life.


Laurie Barge, Ph.D.

California Institute of Technology


Prof. François Guyot, Ph.D.

Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle (MNHN Paris)


Prof. Dr. Oskar Hallatschek

UC Berkeley

Physics and Integrative Biology

Prof. Ludovic Jullien, Ph.D.

Université Pierre et Marie Curie / École Normale Supérieure (Paris)


Prof. Ramanarayanan Krishnamurthy, Ph.D.

The Scripps Research Institute


Prof. Douglas Edward LaRowe, Ph.D.

University of Southern California

Earth Sciences

Prof. Niles Lehman, Ph.D.

Portland State University


Prof. Stephen Mann, Ph.D.

University of Bristol


Kamesh Narasimhan, Ph.D.

Harvard Medical School


Prof. Sijbren Otto, Ph.D.

University of Groningen


Prof. Ralph Pudritz, Ph.D.

McMaster University


Prof. Paul Rainey, Ph.D.

Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology / ESPCI Paris-Tech

Evolutionary Biology

Dora Tang, Ph.D.

Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics


Prof. Dr. Shoichi Toyabe

Tohoku University



  • Wintersemester 2017/18
    What Earth Probably Was, and Most Likely Was Not, in the Earliest Times
    Vortrag von Prof. Stephen J. Mojzsis, Ph.D.
  • Wintersemester 2017/18
    Reconstructing the Origin of Life: From Geology to Biology
    Lunch Talk
  • Sommersemester 2018
    Synthetic Protobiology
    Vortrag von Prof. Stephen Mann, Ph.D.
  • Sommersemester 2018
    Origin of the RNA World: the Fate of Nucleobases in warm little Ponds
    Vortrag von Prof. Ralph Pudritz, Ph.D.
  • Sommersemester 2018
    Ecological Scaffolding and the Evolution of Individuality
    Vortrag von Prof. Paul B. Rainey, Ph.D.
  • Sommersemester 2018
    Synthetic Cellular Models for Probing the Origin of Life
    Vortrag von Dora Tang, Ph.D.
  • Sommersemester 2018
    Emergence of Evolutionary Driving Forces in Dense Cellular Populations
    Vortrag von Prof. Dr. Oskar Hallatschek
  • Wintersemester 2018/19
    Molecular Origins of Life – CAS Conference 2018