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CNRS Senior Scientist Emeritus (DR2 Em)
Doctorat d’État, University of Montpellier, France (1980)
Centre saint Jérôme -service 252

ORCID ID : 0000-0001-9579-2503
ResearcherID : O-1559-2013

Research Interests

Organic reactivity
The study of reaction mechanisms associated with transformations of alpha-amino acids and related species with a specific focus on catalytic processes that reproduce some features of enzyme reactions (induced intramolecularity).

Amino acids and peptides
Reaction pathways associated with the synthesis of amino acids from Strecker and related systems. Solid phase peptide synthesis : protecting groups and linkers.

Origins of life
The origin of life considered from both an experimental and theoretical approach. Experimental research is mostly aimed at understanding the chemical pathways that could have contributed to the early metabolic processes involving amino acids and peptides and their relationship with the chemistry of nucleotides. Therefore these investigations are aimed at understanding how ribosomal translation could have emerged, which constitutes the essential step in the genetic code development. The other issue considered as important is that of how systems evolving towards life could have been fed with energy to maintain a far from equilibrium state. This later research interest is studied from both theoretical aspects to account for the kinetic conditions responsible for the living state (and its dynamic kinetic stability). It is also tackled by an experimental approach to identify the processes able to harvest energy in the environment and convert it into chemical energy capable of maintaining a far from equilibrium state. These investigations have been carried out thanks to collaborative research project with leading group in the world : Prof. Addy Pross (BGU, Israel), Prof. John D. Sutherland (Cambridge, UK), Dr. Kepa Ruiz-Mirazo (San Sebastian, Spain), Prof. Irene A. Chen (Santa Barbara, CA, USA), Prof. P. Strazewski (Lyon).

Past positions

Robert Pascal has been recruited as a CNRS associate scientist in 1979 at the University of Montpellier and worked on Strecker and related systems for the synthesis of amino acids with an organic reactivity perspective. In 1988 he joined the Centre de Recherche de Biochimie Macromoléculaire (Montpellier) and then (1997) the research group Mécanismes Moléculaire des Communications Cellulaires (now Institut de Génomique fonctionnelle in Montpellier) with an interest in the chemistry of peptides. His research interests have been focused on prebiotic chemistry and the origin of life since 2003 in the Dynamics of Complex Biomolecular Systems research group of the Institut des Biomolécules Max Mousseron in Montpellier (group leader 2007–2012). Since May 2019 he has joined the PIIM lab in Marseille.

Selected References

(for a full list see ORCID ID : 0000-0001-9579-2503)


  • Robert Pascal and Irene A. Chen, From soup to peptides. Nature Chemistry 2019, 11, 763–764. DOI:10.1038/s41557-019-0318-6
  • Robert Pascal, A possible prebiotic basis for metabolism. Nature 2019, 569, 47–49. DOI : 10.1038/d41586-019-01322-3
  • Ghinwa Ajram, Jean-Christophe Rossi, Laurent Boiteau, and Robert Pascal, A Reassessment of Prebiotically Relevant Chemical Agents for the Activation of α-Amino Acids and Peptides. Journal of Systems Chemistry 2019, 7, 19–28.
  • Robert Pascal and Addy Pross, Chemistry’s Kinetic Dimension and the Physical Basis for Life. Journal of Systems Chemistry 2019, 7, 1–8.
  • Abe D. Pressman, Ziwei Liu, Evan Janzen, Celia Blanco, Ulrich F. Muller, Gerald F. Joyce, Robert Pascal, and Irene A. Chen, Mapping a systematic ribozyme fitness landscape reveals a frustrated evolutionary network for self-aminoacylating RNA. Journal of the American Chemical Society 2019, 141, 6213–6223. DOI : 10.1021/jacs.8b13298
  • Ziwei Liu, Jean-Christophe Rossi and Robert Pascal, How prebiotic chemistry and early life chose phosphate. Life 2019, 9, 26. DOI : 10.3390/life9010026
  • Ziwei Liu, Ghinwa Ajram, Jean-Christophe Rossi, and Robert Pascal, The chemical likelihood of ribonucleotide-α-amino acid copolymers as players for early stages of evolution. Journal of Molecular Evolution 2019, 87, 83–92. DOI : 10.1007/s00239-019-9887-7


  • Addy Pross and Robert Pascal, How and why kinetics, thermodynamics, and chemistry induce the logic of biological evolution. Beilstein Journal of Organic Chemistry 2017, 13, 665-674. DOI:10.3762/bjoc.13.66
  • Hervé Cottin, Julia Michelle Kottler, Kristin Bartik, H. James Cleaves II, Charles S. Cockell, Jean-Pierre P. De Vera, Pascale Ehrenfreund, Stefan Leuko, Inge Loes Ten Kate, Zita Martins, Robert Pascal, Richard Quinn, Petra Rettberg and Frances Westall. Astrobiology and the possibility of life on Earth and elsewhere… Space Science Reviews 2017, 209, 1–42. DOI : 10.1007/s11214-015-0196-1
  • Ninette Abou Mrad, Ghinwa Ajram, Jean-Christophe Rossi, Laurent Boiteau, Fabrice Duvernay, Robert Pascal and Grégoire Danger, The Prebiotic C-Terminal Elongation of Peptides can be Initiated by N-Carbamoyl Amino Acids. Chemistry – A European Journal, 2017, 23, 7418 – 7421. DOI : 10.1002/chem.201700702


  • Robert Pascal, Physicochemical Requirements Inferred for Chemical Self-organization Hardly Support an Emergence of Life in the Deep Oceans of Icy Moons. Astrobiology 2016, 16, 328–334. DOI : 10.1089/ast.2015.1412
  • Sara Murillo-Sánchez, Damien Beaufils, Juan Manuel González Mañas, Robert Pascal, and Kepa Ruiz-Mirazo, Fatty acids’ double role in the prebiotic formation of a hydrophobic dipeptide. Chemical Science 2016, 7, 3406–3413. DOI : 10.1039/C5SC04796J 2015
  • Robert Pascal and Addy Pross, Stability and its Manifestation in the Chemical and Biological Worlds. Chemical Communications 2015, 51, 16160–16165. DOI : 10.1039/C5CC06260H
  • Robert Pascal, Kinetic Barriers and the Self-Organization of Life. Special Issue on ’Origin of Life’, Honoring Prof. Albert Eschenmoser 90th Birthday. Israel Journal of Chemistry 2015, 55, 865–874. DOI : 10.1002/ijch.201400193


  • Ziwei Liu, Damien Beaufils, Jean-Christophe Rossi, and Robert Pascal, Evolutionary Importance of the Intramolecular Pathways of Hydrolysis of Phosphate Ester Mixed Anhydrides with Amino Acids and Peptides. Scientific Reports 2014, 4, 7440. DOI : 10.1038/srep07440 2013
  • Robert Pascal, Addy Pross and John D. Sutherland, Towards an Evolutionary Theory of the Origin of Life Based on Kinetics and Thermodynamics. Open Biology, 2013, 3, 130156. DOI : 10.1098/rsob.130156
  • Grégoire Danger, Arthur Michaut, Manon Bucchi, Laurent Boiteau, Justine Canal, Raphaël Plasson, and Robert Pascal, 5(4H)-Oxazolones as Intermediates in the Carbodiimide- and Cyanamide- Promoted Peptide Activations in Aqueous Solution. Angewandte Chemie International Edition 2013, 52, 611–614. DOI : 10.1002/anie.201207730


  • Grégoire Danger, Raphaël Plasson, and Robert Pascal, Pathways for the formation and evolution of peptides in prebiotic environments. Chemical Society Reviews 2012, 41, 5416–5429. DOI : 10.1039/C2CS35064E


  • Robert Pascal, Laurent Boiteau, Energy Flows, Metabolism, and Translation. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B : Biological Sciences 2011, 366, 2949–2958. DOI : 10.1098/rstb.2011.0135


  • Hélène Collet, Eddy Souaid, Hervé Cottet, André Deratani, Laurent Boiteau, Guy Dessalces, Jean-Christophe Rossi, Auguste Commeyras, Robert Pascal, Expeditious, Multi-Gram Scale Synthesis of Lysine DendriGraft (DGL) Polymers by Aqueous N-Carboxyanhydride Polycondensation. Chemistry - A European Journal 2010, 16, 2309–2316. DOI:10.1002/chem.200901734


  • Grégoire Danger, Laurent Boiteau, Hervé Cottet, Robert Pascal, The Peptide Formation Mediated by Cyanate Revisited. N-Carboxyanhydrides as Accessible Intermediates in the Decomposition of N-Carbamoylaminoacids. Journal of the American Chemical Society 2006, 128, 7412–7413 . DOI : 10.1021/ja061339+


  • Robert Pascal, Laurent Boiteau et Auguste Commeyras, From the Prebiotic Synthesis of α-Amino Acids Towards a Primitive Translation Apparatus for the Synthesis of Peptides. Topics in Current Chemistry 2005, 259, 69–122. DOI : 10.1007/b136707
  • Jean-Philippe Biron, Alastair L. Parkes, Robert Pascal et John D. Sutherland, Expeditious, Potentially Primordial, Aminoacylation of Nucleotides. Angewandte Chemie International Edition 2005, 44, 6731–6734. DOI : 10.1002/anie.200501591


  • Jean-Philippe Biron et Robert Pascal, Amino Acid N-Carboxyanhydrides : Activated Peptide Monomers Behaving as Phosphate-Activating Agents in Aqueous Solution. Journal of the American Chemical Society 2004, 126, 9198–9199. DOI : 10.1021/ja048189s


  • Robert Pascal, Catalysis through Induced Intramolecularity : What Can Be Learned by Mimicking Enzymes with Carbonyl Compounds that Covalently Bind Substrates ? European Journal of Organic Chemistry 2003, 1813–1824. DOI : 10.1002/ejoc.200200530
  • Robert Pascal, Do enzymes bind their substrates in the ground state because of a physico-chemical requirement ? Bioorganic Chemistry 2003, 31, 485–493. DOI : 10.1016/S0045-2068(03)00102-0


  • Robert Pascal, Induced Intramolecularity in the Reference Reaction Can Be Responsible for the Low Effective Molarities of Intramolecular General Acid-Base Catalysis. Journal of Physical Organic Chemistry 2002, 15, 566–569. DOI : 10.1002/poc.512


  • Robert Pascal and Régine Sola, Preservation of the Fmoc protective group under alkaline conditions by using CaCl2. Applications in peptide synthesis. Tetrahedron Letters 1998, 39, 5031–5034. DOI : 10.1016/S0040-4039(98)00994-0


  • Robert Pascal, Denis Chauvey et Régine Sola, Carboxyl-protecting Groups Convertible into Activating Groups. Carbamates of o Aminoanilides are Precursors of Reactive N-Acylureas. Tetrahedron Letters 1994, 35, 6291–6294.


  • Régine Sola, Philippe Saguer, Marie-Laure David and Robert Pascal, A New Type of Safety-catch Linker cleaved by Intramolecular Activation of an Amide Anchorage and allowing Aqueous Processing in Solid-phase Peptide Synthesis. Journal of the Chemical Society, Chemical Communications 1993, 1786–1788.


  • Robert Pascal, Monique Laspéras, Jacques Taillades et Auguste Commeyras, Hydrolyse des α-aminoamides catalysée par le formaldéhyde en milieu neutre ou faiblement basique. Participation nucléophile du groupe voisin hydroxyle au niveau de l’adduit carbinolamine. Catalyse acido-basique. Nouveau Journal de Chimie 1987, 11, 235–244.


  • Robert Pascal, Jacques Taillades et Auguste Commeyras, Systèmes de Strecker et apparentés. XII - Catalyse par les aldéhydes de l’hydratation intramoléculaire des α-aminonitriles. Tetrahedron 1980, 36, 2999–3008.


  • Robert Pascal, Jacques Taillades et Auguste Commeyras, Systèmes de Strecker et apparentés. X - Décomposition et hydratation en milieu basique des α-aminonitriles secondaires. Processus d’hydratation autocatalytique et catalyse par l’acétone. Tetrahedron, 1978, 34, 2275–2281.
  • Robert Pascal, Jacques Taillades et Auguste Commeyras, Systèmes de Strecker et apparentés. IX - L’acétone catalyseur d’hydratation des α aminonitriles tertiaires en solution aqueuse basique. Bulletin de la Société Chimique de France, II 1978, 177–184.