• IQS Hosts an Exhibition on Joan Oró, the Scientist of Life

Thursday, 23 November, 2023

From 30 November to 14 December, the IQS-URL facilities will host the exhibition of the Catalan biochemist Joan Oró to celebrate the 100th anniversary of his birth. The objective is to gain a better understanding of the scientific legacy and personal values of this fundamental figure in the study of the origin of life.

Within the framework of various activities, mainly across Catalonia, the objective of the Joan Oró Year is to make his history known to all audiences, both due to his exceptional scientific contributions and his career trajectory, making it possible to share key values such as humility, entrepreneurship, courage, and research as instruments to promote peace in the world.

The Lleida-born scientist marked historical milestones in the origin of life on our planet. Some highlights of his work include the discovery of the synthesis of adenine, a fundamental part of DNA and cellular metabolism, in the conditions that reigned on the primitive Earth; as well advising NASA on the analysis of lunar samples from the Apollo missions and the Viking lander and orbiter missions conducted on Mars.


The scientist of life

Dr Oró's legacy largely falls within the discipline of Biochemistry. He was one of the most important scientists in the study of the origin of life, and was the first to synthesize adenine in a laboratory, in addition to participating in several space projects at NASA. He spent most of his career as a scientist in the United States, as a professor at the University of Houston and collaborating with NASA, but he always maintained his Catalan spirit. For this reason, the Joan Oró Foundation has decided to showcase the memory of his entire legacy and conduct studies that enable us to take advantage of his knowledge.

His bequest was transferred from Houston in April 1999, and is now housed in the new facilities of the Joan Oró Foundation in the Parc de Gardeny (Lleida).


Inauguration by Dr Kerstin Goepfrich

The opening of the exhibition will take place on 30 November with the keynote lecture "Origins of Life 2.0: Engineering a synthetic model cell," by Dr Kerstin Goepfrich, professor at the University of Heidelberg Centre for Molecular Biology, where she leads the Max Planck Research Group "Biophysical Engineering of Life." As a Skłodowska-Curie Fellow in Stuttgart, she previously worked on synthetic biology and microfluidics from scratch with Joachim Spatz. In April 2017, she completed her PhD in physics as a Gates Cambridge Fellow at the University of Cambridge, where she built DNA nanopores with the DNA origami technique under Ulrich Keyser's group.

The schedule of the event is as follows:

12:30 pm: Inauguration, by Dr Antoni Planas
12:40 pm: Presentation by Dr Kerstin Goepfrich, led by Dr Benjamín Oller
12:50 pm: Lecture "Origins of Life 2.0: Engineering a synthetic model cell," by Dr Kerstin Goepfrich
1:30 pm: Roundtable session, moderated by Dr Carlos Semino


Promoted by the Joan Oró Foundation and the Department of Research and Universities, Joan Oró Year also features support from the Catalan Foundation for Research and Innovation. It seeks to attract more than 100,000 visitors thanks to the various events aimed at scientific dissemination, and its main objectives include: raising awareness about Dr Oró, bringing the public closer to the enigma about the origin of life and the search for life on other planets, awakening the emotion for life and celebrating among the public at large, and encouraging scientific careers.