Powner Lab

Investigating the Chemical Origins of Life

Elucidating the Origins of Life is at the frontier of human understanding of Nature; it is a highly multidisciplinary problem that requires answers to a large number of questions, ranging from the planetary context to the advent of Darwinian evolution. Critical challenges of increasing complexity from simple isolated molecules to molecular networks and self-replicating systems must be addressed on the trajectory from chemistry to biology.


Understanding the chemical reactions that predisposed chemical self-assembly to form the first cell on Earth is one of the most-complex problems in science, and perhaps the greatest unsolved mystery in chemistry.

However, building systems that can self-assemble, process information, transport and encapsulate chemicals, control reactions within networks, regulate their own structure or function, and ultimately self-replicate will undoubtedly have a major impact on evolving and future technology. We and others have pioneered a new and highly successful ‘Systems Chemistry’ approach to elucidating the Origins of Life, based on recognising that the chemistry of Life is a network of interdependent reactions.