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Distinguished Fellow

Steven Benner

Education

  • BS in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry. Yale University (1976)
  • MS in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry. Yale University (1976)
  • PhD in Chemistry. Harvard University (1979)

Research summary

The Benner group has:
  1. Initiated synthetic biology as a field. The Benner group was the first to synthesize a gene for an enzyme, and used organic synthesis to prepare the first artificial genetic systems. These systems have been used to direct the synthesis of artificial proteins having unnatural amino acids, in FDA-approved clinical assays for HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C that improves the medical care of over 400,000 patients annually, and to support the first artificial chemical system capable of Darwinian evolution.
  2. Invented dynamic combinatorial chemistry, combining ideas from molecular evolution, enzymology, analytical chemistry, and organic chemistry to generate a strategy to discover small molecule therapeutic leads. A German company, Alantos, is today using this technology to develop drug leads.
  3. Established paleomolecular biology, where researchers resurrect ancestral proteins from extinct organisms for study in the laboratory, The strategy allows scientists to connect chemistry to function in biology, which is defined by an organism's fitness in a complex and changing environment.
  4. Helped found evolutionary bioinformatics, in 1991, launched one of the first web-based bioinformatics servers with Gaston Gonnet, generated the first naturally organized protein sequence databases, and helped develop the MasterCatalog that generated ca. $4 million in sales. This work also supported the first exhaustive matching of a modern protein sequence database, the first convincing tools to predict structure in proteins from sequence data, strategies to detect distant homologs using structure prediction, and "post-genomic" tools to detect changing protein function.

Awards

  • National Science Foundation Graduate Fellow
  • Junior Fellowship, Harvard Society of Fellows
  • Dreyfus Award for Young Faculty, 1982
  • Searle Scholar, 1984-86
  • Sloan Foundation Fellow, 1984-86
  • Anniversary Prize, Federation of European Biochemical Societies, 1993
  • Nolan Summer Award, 1998
  • Arun Gunthikonda Memorial Award, 1998
  • Townes R. Leigh Commemorative Professor, 1999
  • B. R. Baker Award, 2001
  • Sigma Xi Senior Faculty Award 2005
  • Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (Biology) 2015
  • Honoris Causa, University of Croatia, Romania 2016
  • Fellow of the International Society for the Study of the Origin of Life (ISSOL) 2017

Recent Publications

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Affinity maturation of a portable Fab-RNA module for chaperone-assisted RNA crystallography
Deepak Koirala, Sandip A. Shelke, Marcel Dupont, Stormy Ruiz, Saurja DasGupta, Lucas J. Bailey, Steven A. Benner and Joseph A. Piccirilli
Nucl. Acids Res. 1-12 (2018) doi: 10.1093/nar/gkx1292
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A Direct Prebiotic Synthesis of Nicotinamide Nucleotide
Hyo-Joong Kim, Steven A. Benner
Chemistry , Wiley-VCH (2018) Jan 12;24(3):581-584. doi: 10.1002/chem.201705394
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Biophysics of Artificially Expanded Genetic Information Systems. Thermodynamics of DNA Duplexes Containing Matches and Mismatches Involving 2-Amino-3-nitropyridin-6-one (Z) and Imidazo[1,2?a]-1,3,5-triazin-4(8H)one (P)
Xiaoyu Wang, Shuichi Hoshika, Raymond J. Peterson, Myong-Jung Kim, Steven A. Benner, and Jason D. Kahn
ACS Synthetic Biology , American Chemical Society (2017) DOI: 10.1021/acssynbio.6b00224
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Adsorption of RNA on mineral surfaces and mineral precipitates
Elisa Biondi, Yoshihiro Furukawa, Jun Kawai, and Steven A. Benner
Beilstein J. Org. Chem. , Beilstein Institute (2017) 13, 393-404
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Tautomeric equilibria of iso-guanine and related purine analogs
Nilesh B. Karalkar, Kshitij Khare, Robert Molt, and Steven A. Benner
Nuc. Nuc. Nuc. acids , Taylor & Francis Group (2017) Apr 3;36(4):256-274. doi: 10.1080/15257770.2016.1268694
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Prebiotic stereoselective synthesis of purine and noncanonical pyrimidine nucleotide from nucleobases and phosphorylated carbohydrates
Hyo-Joong Kim, Steven A. Benner
Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA (2017) October, 114 (43) 11315-11320. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1710778114
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Detecting Darwinism from Molecules in the Enceladus Plumes, Jupiter's Moons, and Other Planetary Water Lagoons
Steven A. Benner
Astrobiology 17 840-851 (2017) DOI: 10.1089/ast.2016.1611
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Assays To Detect the Formation of Triphosphates of Unnatural Nucleotides: Application to Escherichia coli Nucleoside Diphosphate Kinase
Mariko F. Matsuura, Ryan W. Shaw, Jennifer D. Moses, Hyo-Joong Kim, Myong-Jung Kim, Myong-Sang Kim, Shuichi Hoshika, Nilesh Karalkar, and Steven A. Benner
ACS Synthetic Biology , American Chemical Society (2016) 5 (3), pp 234-240 DOI: 10.1021/acssynbio.5b00172
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Synthesis and Enzymology of 2'-Deoxy-7-deazaisoguanosine Triphosphate and Its Complement: A Second Generation Pair in an Artificially Expanded Genetic Information System
Karalkar NB, Leal NA, Kim MS, Bradley KM, Benner SA
ACS Synthetic Biology , American Chemical Society (2016) doi: 10.1021/acssynbio.5b00276
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Alternative Watson-Crick Synthetic Genetic Systems
Steven A. Benner, Nilesh B. Karalkar, Shuichi Hoshika, Roberto Laos, Ryan W. Shaw, Mariko Matsuura, Diego Fajardo, and Patricia Moussatche
Cold Spring Harb Perspect Biol , Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press (2016) doi: 10.1101/cshperspect.a023770
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