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FfAME Research

Modern science has two broad paradigms:

  • Natural history, which understands the world by modeling past events specific to Earth, its inhabitants and, possibly, the solar system and the cosmos.
  • Physical science, which understands the world in terms of universal laws that are not contingent on historical events.

The Foundation has long been one of a very few laboratories worldwide that combine these two traditions. Thus, its impact has been consequential to both paradigms, often in ways that were not possible from work solely within one paradigm.

Browse the links below to see what FfAME scientists have done and what we are doing as we expand and empower science and technology.


DNA Technology

FfAME has long been a leader in technology aimed at "re-inventing" DNA. Our research has been integral in the development and utilizations of many molecular systems that are not DNA or RNA, but can store information like DNA and RNA.

Synthetic Biology

The field of synthetic biology seeks to use unnatural molecules to reproduce emergent behaviors from biology, including the ability to reproduce, evolve, and adapt. FfAME scientists have led the field since its inception, generating the first fully functional artificial genetic systems, coupled artificial genetic systems with the formation of artificial proteins, and applied synthetic biology to problems in human medicine.

Origin of Life

The study of the origin of life is a study of the paradoxes of early Earth and the conditions that could lead to the formation of RNA. This leads us to study not only the history of early Earth and the bodies that impacted it, but also to reach out in a search for alien life to better guide our understanding of how life came to be.

Medical Genomics

Molecular diagnostics tests can be improved by FfAME's unnatural synthetic DNA molecules. These technologies are also the foundation for the development of new classes of small and large molecule therapeutics.

Computational Biology

To understand the history of life, comprehensive databases that catalog the historical information contained in the protein sequences of the organisms of Earth and bioinformatic tools must be created and maintained. FfAME scientists have a long history in the creation and utilizations of such databases, applying them to drive the development of focused evolution and enzyme design.


Analyses of protein sequence evolution generates hypothesis of the roles of proteins in cells, organisms, and their environments across the planet. To test these hypotheses in planetary biology, the Benner group developed the field of experimental paleogentics, and continue to utilize this field for cutting-edge research goals.

Education and Outreach

A major part of our mission is to communicate science and technology to the public. Accordingly, FfAME has participated in multiple outreach activities.

We thank NASA and STScI for the image of the Milky Way.
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