Steven Benner

Foundation For Applied Molecular Evolution, USA

SynBio 2011
Credits: FFAME

Dr. Steven A. Benner is a Distinguished Fellow at the Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution and The Westheimer Institute of Science & Technology, which he co-founded. His research spans many fields in the physical sciences and natural history.

His early work in synthetic biology generated, in 1984, the first synthetic gene encoding an enzyme, strategies for the total synthesis of genes, a redesigned DNA that incorporates twelve nucleotides, expanded genetic systems that encode proteins with more than 20 amino acids, nanostructures that exploit these, and some of the first designed enzymes. From these, his laboratory has constructed artificial chemical systems capable of supporting Darwinian evolution and tools that today help personalize the care of some 400,000 patients annually.

His laboratory also helped found the field of paleogenetics, which resurrects ancestral genes and proteins from extinct organisms for study in the laboratory, providing strategies to test historical hypotheses throughout basic and biomedical research and in fields such as mammalian reproduction, hypertension, and alcoholism. In collaboration with Gaston Gonnet, the Benner laboratory developed evolutionary bioinformatics as a field, completing in 1990 the first exhaustive matching of a modern genomic sequence database, developing advanced models for patterns of sequence divergence in genes and proteins, coupling bioinformatics models for protein divergence with protein function, and providing the first successful tools to predict protein folds from sequence data alone. This work also marketed the first evolutionary organized genomic database, the MasterCatalog.

He is the author of approximately 300 scientific publications and patents, and three books.

Additionnal information is available here.