The Surprising Role
of Viruses
in Biological Evolution

Dr. Eugene Koonin
(NIH) National Center for
Biotechnology Information

7pm Thursday
February 18, 2016

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"So, not to mince words, the Modern [neo-darwinian] Synthesis is gone. What's next?"


(NIH) National Center for
Biotechnology Information

Dr. Koonin is a Senior Investigator and the leader of the Evolutionary Genomics Group in the Computational Biology Branch of the National Center for Biotechnology Information. He received his Ph.D. in 1983 from Department of Biology, Moscow State University in Molecular Biology. He is the author of The Logic of Chance: The Nature and Origin of Biological Evolution (2011) and has authored and co-authored over 600 scientific research papers.

Dr. Koonin and his research group employ methods of computational biology to perform research in three main areas:

i) Empirical comparative and evolutionary genomics - comparison of prokaryotic and eukaryotic genomes with the aim of predicting gene functions, constructing evolutionary scenarios for particular gene families and functional categories, and deciphering general evolutionary trends. One of the products of this research direction is the database of Clusters of Orthologous Groups of proteins (COGs).

ii) Exploitation of genome comparisons, particularly those between relatively close genomes, for addressing fundamental issues of evolutionary biology such as the nature of adaptation and selection in different categories of genes.

iii) Classification and evolutionary analysis of protein domains and domain architectures. An important dimension in this type of research is the discovery of "new" domains that are shared by many diverse proteins but have not been defined previously.

iv) Construction of a general physical theory of evolution.
Dr. Koonin is the author of “Sequence - Evolution – Function Computational Approaches in Comparative Genomics” (2003, with Michael Galperin) and “The Logic of Chance: The nature and origin of biological evolution” (2011). He is the founder and Editor-in-Chief (with Laura Landweberand David Lipman) of Biology Direct, an Open Access journal that also employs open peer-review.Dr. Koonin was elected Member of the American Academy of Microbiology, Fellow of the AmericanCollege of Medical Informatics, Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Foreign Associate of the European Molecular Biology Organization, and Doctor Honoris Causa of Universite Aix-Marseille (France).



"The summary of the state of affairs on the 150th anniversary (2009) of Darwin's Origin of Species is somewhat shocking: in the post-genomic era, all major tenets of the Modern Synthesis are, if not outright overturned, replaced by a new and incomparably more complex vision of the key aspects of evolution. So, not to mince words, the Modern Synthesis is gone.

What's Next?"