The promise of synthetic cells

Charlotte Koster from the Dutch consortium BaSyC explains how building a synthetic cell from scratch can lead to biological solutions that will make industry more sustainable.

Watch the short video

Charting the way to minimal cells

During the three-day virtual workshop “Reconstituting biology – charting the way to minimal cells”, researchers agreed the complexity of building cells is what makes them so interesting.

Read more

editorial in ETLS: ‘Synthetic Biology: Building Blocks for Cells and Tissues’

This issue of Emerging Topics in Life Sciences from november 2019 brings together a collection of perspectives and reviews discussing the exciting advances in synthetic biology.

(Image: Graham Johnson)

Read more

Synthetic Cell symposium 2019 held in Madrid

On 16 and 17 October 2019, European researchers, representatives from industry and other officials gathered at the CSIC headquarters in Madrid for a two-day symposium. The aim of this event, subtitled ‘Defining the Challenges’ was to discuss the future of the Synthetic Cell project and to gather input for the next steps.

Read more

The synthetic cell: a new frontier in science and technology

Can we build a living cell from lifeless components?
And in doing so, understand how life works?

Building a functioning cell is one of the grand scientific challenges of the 21st century. With this initiative we aim to address one of the grand scientific challenges of this century: building a synthetic cell from its molecular building blocks.
Understanding the mechanisms of cellular life will bring vast intellectual, scientific and technological rewards.

Read more

We are a  community of cutting-edge synthetic cell researchers and institutions as well as world-leading companies. The Synthetic Cell Initiative, formed in 2017, intents to offer researchers, companies and policymakers a platform to combine efforts to build cells from their basic parts.

As a community we are committed to:

  • Exploring how life works, by assembling cell parts from the bottom-up: building a functioning cell is one of the grand scientific and intellectual challenges of the 21st century.
  • Enabling the technological application of synthetic cell research: if we can figure out how cells works, we can imitate what they do in order to create nature-based applications and contribute to a circular economy.
  • Encouraging discussion on ethical and RRI aspects of synthetic cell research and technology.

Building a functioning cell is one of the grand scientific challenges of the 21st century. Imagine if we could find the answer to the question: “How does life work?” And imagine that from that knowledge, we could build a material that is 100% reusable, or that can heal itself when damaged.

Our community is composed of researchers that are world-leading chemists, physicists and biologists working on specific aspects and functions of the cell. The aim of this community is to bring this range of expertise together, allowing us to harness the power of biology in completely new ways.

Download our leaflet of the Synthetic Cell Initiative HERE.

Building a synthetic cell and the fundamental insights that come with it, will have impact beyond scientific discoveries, influencing a broad range of industries in the areas of health, food and biobased materials. This may lead to:

  • Drugs that are able to target specific locations and tissues in the body
  • Patient‐tailored treatments in personal medicine (a.o. for cancer)
  • New applications in drug delivery systems
  • Novel screening methods for antibiotics and drugs, biosensors and against antimicrobial resistance
  • New, smart and environment‐friendlier materials for high‐tech industry
  • New biofuels and biodegradable polymers
  • Facilitation of sustainable production of safe and healthy food
  • New materials for food biotechnology
  • New methods for pathogen control

Pharmaceuticals, food, nutrition, self-healing materials, bioplastics and sustainable fuels are a few examples of applications of building synthetic cells. The interest of companies will grow even more as the reality of a synthetic cell comes closer.

The path towards a synthetic cell involves the development of numerous methods and tools with important spin-off possibilities in the form of test beds for synthetic biology applications, advanced drug delivery systems, drug-screening methods, and bionanodevices for multiplex detection of molecules.

Want to get involved with the Synthetic Cell initiative? Get in touch with us!

In recent years tremendous progress has been made in the quest for synthetic cells. The United States and Europe are currently major players in this field. Our knowledge on how to build synthetic cells from their basic parts is now at a tipping point: bringing all this knowledge together will lead to revolutionary new technologies.

Close collaboration with governments and industry is essential: in the next 5 – 20 years this scientific field has the potential to take on global challenges in health, food and sustainability.

Join the synthetic cell community

Join us

What people say about this initiative

Many of the greatest scientific achievements have been sparked by fundamental research. This initiative is probably as fundamental as research in the life sciences can possibly be - it concerns the very transition from chemistry into biology. And still its implications reach far into biomedicine.

Petra Schwille

European researchers take a global lead in the concerted, multinational effort across the physical and biological sciences that is required to build a synthetic cell.

Wilhelm Huck - Radboud University

At the fundamental level, the proposed research allows us to understand what we mean by alive or dead, and explore the fascinating territory between these two states. From the practical viewpoint, research in this area will lead to synthetic cells and tissues that can be used in medical applications. These materials will be safe and inexpensive.

Hagan Bayley - University of Oxford

The construction of a synthetic cell will give unprecedented insight in the “laws of life”, and, ultimately, it will allow us to engineer different forms of life to address the grand challenges of Europe.

Bert Poolman - University of Groningen

Advances in the life sciences and in physics have converged on a detailed understanding of the component parts of life. At the same time, chemistry has come to a point where (supra)molecular systems can be synthesized that can mimic key functions of biomolecules, such as self-recognition and mechanochemical activity.

Gijsje Koenderink - Amolf & VU Amsterdam