Claudia Bonfio, a postdoctoral researcher in John Sutherland’s group in the LMB’s PNAC Division, has been awarded the Royal Society of Chemistry’s 2019 Dalton Emerging Researcher Award for her “development of chemistry to investigate the chemical roots of iron-sulfur dependent metabolism”.
The Dalton Emerging Researcher Award is given annually to recognise the achievements of an inorganic chemist working in, or originally from, the UK who is within two years of completion of their PhD. The winner receives £1000, a medal, and a certificate and is also invited to complete a UK lecture tour.
Claudia studied iron-sulfur clusters for her PhD at the University of Trento, which also included some time as a visiting student in John Sutherland’s lab at the LMB and in Jack Szostak’s lab at Harvard University. Iron-sulfur clusters are molecular ensembles of iron and sulphide found in a variety of proteins required for metabolic function in our cells. Collaborating with John, Claudia showed that it is possible to form iron-sulfur clusters through the use of UV light, under conditions approximating the early Earth, in which John’s group have also shown the potential to produce amino acids, lipids, the building blocks of RNA, and, most recently, of DNA. Importantly, Claudia also found that these prebiotic iron-sulfur clusters had similar electron transport capacity to those responsible for mitochondrial respiration in modern cells.
Claudia is now a Marie Curie Fellow at the LMB, having joined John’s group as a postdoctoral researcher in 2017. Her current research is focused on assembly of prebiotic lipids into membranes and non-enzymatic RNA replication within primordial cells to improve our understanding of how the first cells might have formed and how the genetic code of life might have spread in these earliest lifeforms.
Claudia has previously received the two most prestigious awards given by the Italian Chemical Society to young chemists, the Reaxys SCI Early Career Researcher Award and the Primo Levi Award. Claudia was also included in the “100 under 30” list of young Italians by Forbes Italy and is a board member of the International Young Chemists Network.