Andreas Wagner (University of Zurich)
Life can be viewed as a four billion year long history of innovations. These range from dramatic macroscopic innovations like the evolution of wings or eyes, to a myriad molecular changes that form the basis of macroscopic innovations. We know many examples of innovations — qualitatively new phenotypes that can provide a critical advantage in the right environment — but we have little systematic understanding of the principles that allow organisms to innovate. Most phenotypic innovations result from changes in three classes of systems: metabolic networks, regulatory circuits, and protein or RNA molecules. I will discuss recent evidence that these classes of systems share two important features that are essential for their ability to innovate.