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11. Hermann Staudinger Lecture: "From Microbial Genetics to Molecular Genetics and to Molecular Evolution"

Nobelpreisträger Werner Arber (Universität Basel), 19.01.2012

Nobel Laureate Werner Arber presented the 11th Staudinger Lecture “From Microbial Genetics to Molecular Genetics and to Molecular Evolution” on 19th January 2012. Arber earned the 1978 Nobel Prize in Physiology/Medicine together with Daniel Nathans and Hamilton Othanel Smith for the discovery of restriction endonucleases, which lead to the development of recombinant DNA technology. This basic knowledge greatly facilitated further studies on structural and functional characteristics of genetic information. Scientists discussed conjectural risks of their experimentations which led to the introduction of appropriate guidelines. In order to evaluate long-term evolutionary risks of genetic engineering, natural mechanisms of spontaneous genetic variation had to be understood at the molecular level and compared with strategies of genetic engineering. Again, microbial genetic approaches revealed that many different specific molecular mechanisms belonging to three qualitatively different natural strategies contribute to the overall genetic variation, the driving force of biological evolution. In his lecture, Arber discussed philosophical and practical implications of these insights into the natural process of biological evolution.