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Sara Murillo
KLI Colloquia
The Great Opportunity of Biologizing Chemistry: A Search for Minimal Functionally Integrated Individuals
Sara MURILLO SÁNCHEZ (KLI & University of the Basque Country)
2016-10-27 16:30 - 2016-10-27 18:00
Organized by KLI

Topic description:
The coupling between compartment and metabolic dynamics is one of the central features that define all living organisms, as intrinsically cellular systems. Given the complexity of such a coupling in any extant cell, I will take a genealogical approach to the problem. This involves moving from biology to chemistry; but not any kind of chemistry. I consider that the recently emerged field of systems chemistry, which studies diverse mixtures of organic molecules in interaction, constitutes the most appropriate current platform to study the appearance and early development of prebiotic phenomena. It proposes a chemical scenario for the origins of life that is completely different from the ‘established view’ (i.e., the RNA-world view), which assumes that populations of naked biopolymers could evolve directly from chemistry and then, thanks to natural selection, towards living entities. Instead, systems chemistry pays attention to primitive forms of protocellular organization, as a much more plausible prebiotic pathway. In this context, my aims are: (i) to describe a crudely simplified protocol model that illustrates how this basic coupling between chemistry and compartment could have started taking shape in the primitive Earth; and (ii) by means of (i), explore whether this could provide new insights into the problem of characterising biological individuality and function in a minimal sense. Thus, I will try to show how research in chemistry could actually contribute to the naturalization of fundamental ideas for biology, like function and individuality.


Biographical note:
- Bachelor in Biology and Masters in Molecular Biology and Biomedicine at University of Basque Country (UPV-EHU)
- Currently a PhD student in Philosophy of Science within the IAS-Research Group ( and the Biofisika Institute ( within a project called “Searching for the roots of biological function and individuality from a 'systems chemistry' approach” under the supervision of Dr. Kepa Ruiz-Mirazo.
- Part of the experimental work carried out during my PhD was done in collaboration with the group of Prof. Robert Pascal at the University of Montpellier (UM2/CRNS), France.
- KLI ‘Writing-Up’ Fellow (Oct 2016 - Mar 2017).