PhD position Origin of life : RNA reaction networks and directed evolution CBI - ESPCI Paris — Offre pourvue

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Offre pourvue

ESPCI Paris - PSL is a major institution of higher education (a French "Grande Écoled’ingénieurs"), an internationally renowned research center (6 Nobel Prizes), and a fertile ground of innovation for industry (3 start-ups created/year). ESPCI is a highly multidisciplinary environment with teaching and research in physics, chemistry and biology.

Project : A central question in the origin of life is how evolution could have emergedinphysical-chemical systems. RNA is an experimental model for the prebiotic world because RNA is both an information carrier and a catalyst.RNAsderived from group I intronshave been shown to self-reproduce from smaller fragments, recombine other RNAs, and produce novel ribozymes.Therefore, RNA is a highly promising model to build an artificial reactions networks capable of evolution. However, a system made of RNA and capable of evolution remains to be discovered.
The project aims to build in vitroRNA reaction networks integrating recombination and template-based ligation as the fundamental driving forces of evolution. The challenge is to implement Darwinian properties of variation, reproduction with heredity and selection, and combine them, with the ambition to discover paths for the gradual emergence of evolution.We will use a combination of directed evolution, rational design of reaction networks, sequencing and microfluidics, in close collaboration with theory.

Selected publicationsfrom the group : Matsumura, S., Kun, Á., Ryckelynck, M., Coldren, F., Szilágyi, A., Jossinet, F., Nghe, P., Szathmary E. & Griffiths, A. D. Transient compartmentalization of RNA replicators prevents extinction due to parasites. Science (2016).

Arsène, S., Ameta, S., Lehman, N., Griffiths, A. D., &Nghe, P.Coupled catabolism and anabolism in autocatalytic RNA sets. Nucleic acids research (2018)
Ameta, S., Arsène, S., Foulon, S., Saudemont, B., Clifton, B. E., Griffiths, A. D., & Nghe, P.Darwinian properties and their trade-offs in autocatalytic RNA reaction networks. Nature Communications (2021) ;

Funding : The project is funded by a European Research Council grant (until 2026).

Laboratory : The research will be hosted in the Nghe team ( in the Laboratory of Biochemistry (, dir. Andrew Griffiths) at ESPCI Paris – PSL University, France ( a French ‘Grande Ecole’ (6 Nobel prizes) in the heart of Paris.

Expected profiles : Given the highly interdisciplinary nature of these projects, candidates from diverse backgrounds will be considered : Molecular biology, RNA biochemistry, Experimental evolution, Systems biology, experimental physics (notably at the interface with biology), complex systems.We are primarily looking for experimentalists, but theoreticians willing to do experiments will be considered. In any case, the candidate should have a strong motivation to learn novel techniques, concepts and to team work in an interdisciplinary environment.

Application : Send a CV witha publication listandrecommendation letters

Starting date :June 2021
Duration :3 years
Salary  : 1 700€ net

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