Fox Named Fellow in International Society for the Study of the Origin of Life

Fox Named Fellow in International Society for the Study of the Origin of Life
One of Four Fellows Recognized at Meeting in Japan

George FoxGeorge E. Fox, a John and Rebecca Moores Professor of Biology and Biochemistry at the University of Houston, was named a Fellow in the International Society for the Study of the Origin of Life. The honor is bestowed by ISSOL – The International Astrobiology Society.

Fox is one of four members chosen as Fellows in 2014; two members are from the U.S., one from France, and one from Spain. Fellows are elected every three years, and 36 Fellows have been named since 1980.

Selection is based on a members’ demonstrated exceptional and sustained contributions to the origin of life and/or astrobiology through scientific research, educational activities or service to the Society or its scientific community.

The citation on Fox’s plaque recognized him for “exceptional and sustained contributions to ISSOL and the origin of life community.”

Fox was a co-discoverer of the Archaea, the third Domain of Life. His current research interests at UH’s College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics focus on understanding the early evolution of life through investigations of the structure, function and evolution of ribosomes.

The ribosome is a complex RNA/protein nanomachine that is responsible for coded protein synthesis in all three Domains of Life. Genomic data indicates that the ribosome had already achieved its modern level of complexity at the time of the last universal common ancestor (LUCA) of all living things.

“The ribosome’s evolutionary history therefore occurred in a time period that predates LUCA,” Fox said. “Unraveling that history will provide insight to events predating LUCA. Moreover, the ribosome may have arisen in a prebiotic RNA World.”

Currently, the Fox group is seeking to develop a detailed timeline of major events in ribosome history while attempting to demonstrate peptide synthesis by a small RNA that mimics the ribosome reaction center.

The historical list of Fellows is available on ISSOL – The International Astrobiology Society website at

- Kathy Major, College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics