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The talk highlights the latest scientific advances emerging at the interface of genomics and astrobiology. Today, astrobiologists
have the tremendous energy and enthusiasm of pioneers who are discovering new lands, and genomics is playing an important
role in this quest. First, genomics can assist astrobiologists study the origin and evolution of life on Earth as a surrogate for
understanding how life could have emerged elsewhere in the universe. Current hypotheses suggest that inorganic compounds
such as hydrogen, methane, iron and sulfur were early sources of energy for life on earth, and microbial genomes, especially from
chemoautotrophs that live at extremes of pH, radiation, temperature and darkness, are being plundered for clues as to the origin
of life on Earth and for their mechanistic implications for life elsewhere. Detection of extra-terrestrial life will be arguably the
single most important discovery in human history. Secondly, because the metabolic activities of microbes in early evolution made
Earth habitable for plants and animals and are also indispensible for the maintenance of life on Earth today, it is anticipated that
microbes will play key roles in terraforming Mars and moons in our solar system. Genomics will be used to tease out the essential
genes and metabolisms needed to tailor-make microbes via synthetic biology for functions in extra-terrestrial environments and
for planetary biotechnological applications. Thus, even if life is not found elsewhere, the coming decades should prove incredibly
exciting for astrogenomics, driving inspiration and innovation and stretching the boundaries of what is possible.
David Holmes is currently Director for the Center of Bioinformatics and Genome Biology at the Fundacion Ciencia Y Vida and is also a Full Professor
at Andres Bello University in Santiago, Chile. He obtained his Ph.D in biochemistry at the California Institute of Technology, USA and has over 200
publications including a scientific citation classic.
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