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Faculty Highlights

Joel Bader receives NSF Rules of Life award

October 9, 2019

Joel Bader

The National Science Foundation has issued its first ever Rules of Life awards totaling $36 million to accelerate two areas of next-generation science and engineering research: building a synthetic cell, and epigenetics.

“Discovering the rules governing life on earth is a grand scientific challenge that holds the potential to enhance the U.S. position as a global leader in research and development,” said NSF Assistant Director for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences Skip Lupia. “NSF’s investments will enable us to address some of the greatest challenges we currently face in understanding the living world.”

Joel Bader, professor of biomedical engineering at Johns Hopkins (principal investigator), has been awarded a Rules of Life award for his research with Debra Mathews, associate professor of pediatrics in the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and faculty of the Berman Institute of Bioethics (co-principal investigator). The research titled, Life with a RNA Genome, will explore origins-of-life by studying the transition from a primordial world in which RNA served as the repository of biological information to the first cells with DNA-based genomes.

In the area of synthetic cell research, the inaugural Rules of Life awards support investigators from nearly two dozen institutions to collaborate on one of six new projects that will tackle the challenges associated with building synthetic cells and explore the ethical and social implications of creating synthetic cells. The research of Bader and Mathews represents a collaboration with California Institute of Technology, New York University, and Colorado State University.

A complete list of Rules of Life awards can be found on the NSF Awards Search.