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Origin of Life Challenge: How did life begin?

$2,000,000 in Potential Research Funding

The sponsor named below is offering an award of $50,000 for the best original proposal pertaining to the study of the origin of life on Earth, including an outline of work to be performed in support of the proposal. Multiple awards may be made. "Life" is defined here as a self-sustained chemical system capable of undergoing Darwinian evolution. The proposal should take into account the conditions, materials, and energy sources believed to have existed on the prebiotic Earth. Submissions should provide a cogent hypothesis for how life first arose, including its plausible chemistry, and for how primitive life could have evolved to modern biological cells, including the present genetic material and metabolism. Submitters are encouraged to offer unconventional hypotheses that nonetheless can be subject to experimental validation. Specific questions to be addressed include:

  • What were the nature and genesis of the first macromolecules on the prebiotic earth? How did the building blocks that comprise these macromolecules become available and how were they assembled?
  • How did prebiotic molecules first acquire the capacity for storing genetic information and how did the genetic machinery evolve?
  • At what stage in the origin of life did cells originate, and what did they contain? How did those primitive cells evolve to
    modern biological cells?
  • What was the chemistry of the first metabolic pathway(s) and how did that metabolism evolve to modern cellular metabolism?
  • At what stage did proteins become involved in metabolic processes and how did the link first arise between genetic molecules and other functional molecules, such as enzymes?

All submissions will be reviewed by a panel of scientific experts. Submissions should contain a statement of work to be performed and a letter of institutional support where appropriate. Submissions that suggest a multidisciplinary approach should describe how the necessary research capabilities will be provided. Submissions that rely on extraterrestrial sources of key materials must describe in detail how those materials would have been generated. Submissions involving the supernatural or that violate physical laws will not be considered.

Submissions that are deemed highly meritorious by the reviewing panel will be eligible for additional research funding of up to $2,000,000 over a multi-year period, at the discretion of the sponsor.

Electronic submissions are requested. All submissions shall be in English (minimum 10 point type) and limited to 10 single-spaced pages, including figures, but excluding citations. Submissions will be accepted beginning July 1, 2011, with a final deadline of December 31, 2011. The confidentiality of all proposals will be protected using guidelines established by the U.S. National Science Foundation. The winner(s) will be announced and the award(s) will be made early in 2012. Until that time, the funds for the award are being held in a trust account by the law firm of Hurley Re, PC. Confirmation may be obtained by email to:

To make a submission, please follow the Instructions for Submissions.

Harry Lonsdale
My goal in supporting Origin of Life research is to help scientists solve one of the great remaining problems in biology. A solution will give every science teacher in the world, from high school to college, a fundamental understanding of how life probably began on the Earth. In time, the world will learn that the laws of chemistry and physics, and the principle of evolution by natural selection, are sufficient to explain life's origin.

Harry Lonsdale (wikipedia bio)



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