Steven A. Benner, of the University of Florida, will deliver the PSB '99 keynote lecture, entitled Functional Genomics: Connecting Natural Selection with Protein Sequence

Abstract: According to the theory of Darwinian Evolution, natural selection superimposed upon random variation is the only mechanism for obtaining functional behavior in living systems. Structure Theory from organic chemistry holds that all behaviors (including functional behaviors) of a biological system can be understood in terms of the behavior of its constituent molecules. Genome sequences are nothing more (and nothing less) than the structures of organic molecules. Deducing biological function from sequence data, therefore, presumably involves some combination of evolutionary theory and organic chemistry. It has been 10 years since a review article first attempted to do this in a systematic way (Benner, S. A., Ellington, A. D. Interpreting the behavior of enzymes. Purpose or pedigree? CRC Crit. Rev. Biochem. 23, 369-426 (1988)). Today, genomic sequence projects have provided sufficient data to undertake this project comprehensively. This talk will focus on three themes:

Brief bio Steven Benner received a B.S.-M.S. at Yale University in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, and a Ph.D. in Chemistry at Harvard University under the joint supervision of Frank H. Westheimer and R. B. Woodward. After two years as a Junior Fellow of the Harvard Society of Fellows, he became an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry at Harvard University. In 1985, he became Professor of Bio-organic Chemistry at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, and in 1995, Professor of Chemistry, Anatomy, and Cell Biology at the University of Florida. His research covers the chemistry, biology, and evolution of proteins and nucleic acids.

Back to the main PSB page