Catching the Virus Evolution: Renowned Biologist Eugene Koonin Discusses the Vast Virus Universe


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Sep 20 2020 59 mins   6

In this podcast, returning guest and computational biologist and author Eugene V. Koonin and Richard examine intriguing angles of virus behavior. Dr. Koonin is a contributor to Richard's upcoming book on viruses, and Richard sees him as a cornerstone of his own biological knowledge.

An expert on the origin and evolution of life, Dr. Koonin graces listeners with fascinating ideas, such as

  • Where viruses sit in the continuum of the evolution of life on earth in relation to ancient replicons and the first cells,
  • What his definition of a virus is and how that collides with the categories of living/nonliving, and
  • How he describes the "sensing" abilities of viruses and explains virus competition and identity.

Eugene V. Koonin is a senior investigator at the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), the National Library of Medicine, and the National Institute of Health. He's the author of several books, including Logic of Chance: The Nature and Origin of Biological Evolution.

One of a series where Richard interviews contributors to an upcoming book, this conversation explores Dr. Koonin's early days of studying virology and how far science has since come in understanding the machinations involved. It was, in fact, his first studies on virus genomes and trying to decipher those codes that lead him into his present focus on computational biology.

Richard steers him towards several important questions on the nature of viruses and this gives Dr. Koonin opportunities to speak on some of their most surprising characteristics. He asserts that viruses are an intrinsic part of the biological realm and have their own evolutionary fate or trajectory; in other words, they experience their own selective factors that in turn shape their evolution.

In this sense, he adds, they are substantially independent from their host; however, they are also completely dependent on their host for energy production. Therefore, they have same characteristics of life and yet are missing others. It is the tension in this mix of evolutionary force and obligate nature that makes them worthy of such discussions. Listen in to enjoy this intelligent entry into virus behaviors.

For more about his work, search his name in science publication aggregates and see his website at NCBI: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/research/groups/koonin/.

Available on Apple Podcasts: apple.co/2Os0myK