Gary Ruvkun, Ph.D.

Gary Ruvkun, Ph.D.

Since 2000, we have been designing a small nucleic acid sequencing instrument to send to Mars to detect and sequence DNA or RNA. The primary goal of this instrument will be to test the theory that DNA or RNA-based life may have exchanged between Earth and Mars, perhaps early in solar system evolution to carry life from one planet to the other. Our project will test the hypothesis on Mars by finding and sequencing DNA. Sequencing is necessary because it would confirm both the discovery of life and its deep branching relationship to Earth life, ruling out contamination.


Ruvkun G, M Finney, G Church, M Zuber, W Gilbert 2002. A Robotic-PCR Detector for DNA-based Life on Other Planets, in Signs of Life: A Report based on the April 2000 Workshop on Life Detection Techniques. Space Sciences Board, NASA.

Isenbarger TA, M Finney, C Ríos-Velázquez, J Handelsman, and G Ruvkun 2007. Miniprimer PCR, a new lens for viewing the microbial world. Appl Environ Microbiol. 2008 Feb;74(3):840-9.  PMCID: PMC2227730

Isenbarger TA, CE Carr, SS Johnson, M Finney, GM Church, W Gilbert, MT Zuber, and G Ruvkun 2008. The most conserved genome segments for life detection on Earth and other planets, Origin of Life and Evolution of Biospheres, 38(6):517-33. Oct 14.  PMID: 18853276

Carr CE, H Rowedder, C Vafadari, CS Lui, E Cascio, MT Zuber, and G Ruvkun 2013.  Radiation resistance of biological reagents for in-situ life detection.  Astrobiology Jan;13(1):68-78. doi: 10.1089/ast.2012.0869.  PMID: 23330963