Note the registration deadline:

    MAY 31, 2000



financial support available for young European scientists and others; click on funding for information:


XIIèmes Rencontres de Blois


(site updated June 20, 2000)


Frontiers of life

25th June - 1st July 2000

Go to:

Introduction Links to various forms
New (6/6/00)! Information Bulletin no. 1 Practical organization
Accommodation Registration fee
Confeence location Scientific programme New (20/6/00)!
Contributed papers Social activities
Funding Travel New (6/6/00)!
New (6/6/00)! Poster specification  

Programme committee:
A.Brack(France), L.Celnikier(France), J.Chela-Flores(Italy), O.Danos(France), M.Dosanjh(Switzerland), P.Forterre(France), T.Hwa(USA), M.Jacquet(France), C.Jones(Switzerland), C.Leguern(USA), C.McKay(USA), R.Navarro-Gonzales(Mexico), T.Owen(USA), F.Raulin(France), W.Schopf(USA), P.Sonigo(France), J.Tran Thanh Van(France), K.Tran ThanhVan(France), C.White(France).
International Advisory committee:
B.Blumberg (USA), C. de Duve(Belgium), F.Drake(USA), W.Gilbert(USA), V. Goldanskii(Russia), G.Horneck(Germany), A.Lazcano(Mexico), J.-M.Lehn(France), S.Léon(France), K.Nealson(USA), L.Orgel(USA), G.Ourisson(France), M.Radman(France), A.Robinson(UK), A.Schwarz(Holland), S.Spengler(USA), J.Weissenbach(France).

Sponsored by:
Conseil Régional de la Région Centre,
Ecole Polytechnique,
European Union,
Ministère de la Recherche,
NASA, NSF, Observatoire de Paris, Ville de Blois.


This is an announcement and call for contributions for an international conference which will be held in the Château of Blois, in France's Loire Valley.

Frontiers of Life will build on the growing realization that we have so far had a remarkably parochial view of the nature of life; recent discoveries that terrestrial life exists in the most "unlifelike" environments which owe very little to conventional biological processes - deep below the sea, in mineral crevices, around hot seabed vents, for example - has forced us to re-examine our understanding of both the nature of life and of its origins; the old question "What is life?" has now broadened and deepened to "Where is life not" and "Whence life". With the discovery of extra solar planetary systems as well as the (hotly contested) speculations that Mars may once have harboured microbiotic life and the emerging theories that Europa, a satellite of Jupiter, could have an internal warm water "ocean", these questions have taken on new meanings.

The closing years of the 20th century have witnessed not only a change in our perspective of what constitutes life; we are also learning rapidly how to study and even manipulate its genetic basis. This is in itself a remarkable achievement, exploiting the talents of a spectrum of specialists and techniques often drawn from quite unrelated disciplines. In fact genotyping to the life sciences is as accelerator physics is to subnuclear physics in that both are faced by an exponentially growing mass of data and one's ability to do useful science is increasingly constrained by the data analysing and processing techniques available. Indeed, the recent description of genome structures is generating a huge amount of information. Conceptual and technical advances are urgently required for the analysis of such data, and they must be based on transversal, multidisciplinary contributions from fields that at present still interact relatively little: bioinformatics, mathematics and statistical physics, molecular biology, developmental biology, physiology, evolution theory. It is surely significant that some of the latest techniques in this domain owe less to the classical biophysics laboratory and rather more to the industrial manufacture of computer chips.

Frontiers of life will be articulated about the following themes:

  • Origins of life and the cosmic perspective
  • Terrestrial evolution
  • Cosmic habitats
  • Evolution in the Universe
  • Search for extraterrestrial life, in the Solar System and elsewhere
  • Life in extreme environments and its adaptation

  • Genetics and biotechnologies
  • Genomics and proteomics
  • The human genome
  • Biotechnologies and the limits of genetic manipulation
  • Bioinformatics
  • Artificial life

  The Rencontres de Blois are international conferences, whose spirit is explicitly multidisciplinary. They have now been organized for a number of years in the city of Blois, in France, and have covered topics ranging from particle physics to chaos theory, life and planetary science. They are a mix of invited and contributed papers; posters are also very welcome. Young researchers are particularly encouraged to attend and for this purpose we have set aside funds to partially cover their participation in this conference.

Frontiers of life is the second of a series of three Rencontres, the first of which, Frontiers of matter, was held in the summer of 1999. The third, Frontiers of the Universe, is scheduled for the year 2001.



The XIIth Rencontres de Blois, entitled «Frontiers of Life» will be held at the Château Royal de Blois, France, from Sunday, June 25th to Saturday, July 1st, 2000. The postal address of the conference when in session is:

  Rencontres de Blois

Château de Blois

41000 BLOIS, France


The picturesque old French town of Blois, famous for its XIV-XVIIth century chateau, is located 170 km (100 miles) from Paris in the beautiful region of the «Châteaux de la Loire».


The conference will consist of plenary sessions for invited talks, some parallel sessions for relatively short contributed papers, and posters.

There will be a coffee break in the middle of the morning and afternoon, lunch and dinner will be served at the Chateau.

The preliminary day-to-day programme is as follows (coffee, lunch and dinner have not been explicitly indicated):

Sunday, June 25: arrival in Blois; final registration

Monday, June 26

9h00: Welcome address : J. Tran Thanh Van, Conference Chairman

9h30-11h00: Inaugural talks:

-- Frontiers of Life: where are they?: L. Celnikier (Observatoire de Meudon, France)

-- The NASA Astrobiology Institute: B. Blumberg (NASA, USA)

-- Genetics and genomics: two in one, one in two: P. Slonimski (CGM, France)

11h30-13h00: Genetics:

-- The origin of genes: W. Gilbert (Harvard, USA)

-- The human genome project : past, present and future: J. Weissenbach (Genoscope, France)

14h30-17h30: Molecular evolution: chairman - C. Wikramasinghe

-- The chemistry of the origin of life: A. Brack (CBM, France)

-- Delivery of extraterrestrial volatiles and biogenic molecules during the period of heavy bombardment: M. Maurette (CSNSM, France)

-- Nitrogen crisis in the early biosphere: possible cause for the development of biological nitrogen fixation: R. Navarro-Gonzales (University of Mexico, Mexico) and C. McKay (NASA, USA)

-- From self-replicating oligonucleotides to self-assembling DNA-nano-objects: G. von Kiedrowski (Bochum, Germany)

-- Artificial life: towards bio-inspired computing machines: D. Mange (EPFL, Switzerland)

From 18h00: Guided visit of the Château de Blois

Tuesday, June 27

9h00-10h30: Genetics and proteomics: chairman - M. Jacquet

-- Origin and evolution of the triplet code: E. Trifonov (Weizmann Institute, Israel)

-- Evolution of evolvability: F. Taddei, M. Radman (Necker, France)

-- Mining the human genome using proteomics: R. Townsend (GlycoSciences, UK)

11h00-12h30:Terrestrial life as the reference: chairman - G. Horneck

-- The earliest fossil evidence of life: W. Schopf (UCLA, USA)

-- Archean life and its environment as recorded by stable isotopes: F. Robert (Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle, France

-- Genomic properties common to nowadays living organisms provide clues to biochemical properties of LUCA, the last unicellular common ancestor: C.-A. Roten, D. Karamata (Universite de Lausanne, Switzerland)

-- The search for the last common ancestor: reading the molecular evidence: A. Lazcano (UNAM, Mexico)

Afternoon - excursion, probably to the Château de Chenonceau and/or Clos Luce

Wednesday, June 28:

9h00-12h00: Extremophiles: chairman - A. Lazcano

-- Origin and evolution of organisms living at temperatures near the boiling point of water: P. Forterre (IGM, France)

-- Life at the extremes in stratified communities: C. Cockell (British Antarctic Survey, UK)

-- Low-temperature environments: a cradle or a challenge?: N. Glansdorff (ULB, Belgium)

-- Strategies of life to cope with intense environmental radiation: G. Horneck (DLR, Germany)

14h00-17h00: parallel sessions (preliminary programme, subject to revision)

1. Evolution and maintenance of life in extreme environments, and the search for extraterrestrial life

chairman - C. Chyba