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The asymmetry of life: towards a unified view of the emergence of biological homochirality

Total Cost €


EC-Contrib. €






 A-LIFE project word cloud

Explore the words cloud of the A-LIFE project. It provides you a very rough idea of what is the project "A-LIFE" about.

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Project "A-LIFE" data sheet

The following table provides information about the project.


Organization address
address: RUE MICHEL ANGE 3
city: PARIS
postcode: 75794

contact info
title: n.a.
name: n.a.
surname: n.a.
function: n.a.
email: n.a.
telephone: n.a.
fax: n.a.

 Coordinator Country France [FR]
 Total cost 1˙500˙000 €
 EC max contribution 1˙500˙000 € (100%)
 Programme 1. H2020-EU.1.1. (EXCELLENT SCIENCE - European Research Council (ERC))
 Code Call ERC-2018-STG
 Funding Scheme ERC-STG
 Starting year 2019
 Duration (year-month-day) from 2019-04-01   to  2024-03-31


Take a look of project's partnership.

# participants  country  role  EC contrib. [€] 


 Project objective

What is responsible for the emergence of homochirality, the almost exclusive use of one enantiomer over its mirror image? And what led to the evolution of life’s homochiral biopolymers, DNA/RNA, proteins and lipids, where all the constituent monomers exhibit the same handedness?

Based on in-situ observations and laboratory studies, we propose that this handedness occurs when chiral biomolecules are synthesized asymmetrically through interaction with circularly polarized photons in interstellar space. The ultimate goal of this project will be to demonstrate how the diverse set of heterogeneous enantioenriched molecules, available from meteoritic impact, assembles into homochiral pre-biopolymers, by simulating the evolutionary stages on early Earth. My recent research has shown that the central chiral unit of RNA, ribose, forms readily under simulated comet conditions and this has provided valuable new insights into the accessibility of precursors of genetic material in interstellar environments. The significance of this project arises due to the current lack of experimental demonstration that amino acids, sugars and lipids can simultaneously and asymmetrically be synthesized by a universal physical selection process.

A synergistic methodology will be developed to build a unified theory for the origin of all chiral biological building blocks and their assembly into homochiral supramolecular entities. For the first time, advanced analyses of astrophysical-relevant samples, asymmetric photochemistry triggered by circularly polarized synchrotron and laser sources, and chiral amplification due to polymerization processes will be combined. Intermediates and autocatalytic reaction kinetics will be monitored and supported by quantum calculations to understand the underlying processes. A unified theory on the asymmetric formation and self-assembly of life’s biopolymers is groundbreaking and will impact the whole conceptual foundation of the origin of life.


year authors and title journal last update
List of publications.
2019 Andrew M. Turner, Matthew J. Abplanalp, Alexandre Bergantini, Robert Frigge, Cheng Zhu, Bing-Jian Sun, Chun-Ta Hsiao, Agnes H. H. Chang, Cornelia Meinert, Ralf I. Kaiser
Origin of alkylphosphonic acids in the interstellar medium
published pages: eaaw4307, ISSN: 2375-2548, DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aaw4307
Science Advances 5/8 2019-11-08
2019 Adrien Garcia, Cornelia Meinert, Haruna Sugahara, Nykola Jones, Søren Hoffmann, Uwe Meierhenrich
The Astrophysical Formation of Asymmetric Molecules and the Emergence of a Chiral Bias
published pages: 29, ISSN: 2075-1729, DOI: 10.3390/life9010029
Life 9/1 2019-11-08

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