Promoting collaboration on synthetic cells' research and technology

The European Synthetic Cell Initiative (SynCellEU)

We are a network of excellent European research laboratories, institutions and companies, coordinated by Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) in the Netherlands, that have joined forces to collaborate on synthetic cell research and accelerate its translation into technology.

We believe that synthetic cell technology can contribute to a healthier and greener future by providing sustainable innovations inspired by nature.

Synthetic cell research, also known as bottom-up synthetic biology, aims to understand how cells work by trying to reproduce their molecular mechanisms, with the ultimate ambition of building functional cells from scratch, i.e. synthetic cells. These cell-like structures will have the ability to perform at least three of the main functions of living cells: metabolism, DNA processing, and division.

Synthetic cell research attempts to answer the fundamental question of how life works and will lead to a new green technology based on mimicking natural processes, with applications in many areas.

We focus our activities on three main areas:

  1. fostering collaboration among scientists on bottom-up synthetic biology;
  2. stimulating cooperation between scientists and industry for the development of new technologies from this research, to obtain 100% green materials and compounds, made from cells;
  3. facilitating ethical and Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) discussions that will lead to an ethical, societal and legal framework for the creation of synthetic cells.

Ultimately we aim to develop a European Research and Innovation Ecosystem in Bottom-up Synthetic Biology: a virtual institute with a coordination office at Delft University of Technology to foster collaboration between research hubs and companies across Europe.

Technological developments in the field of bottom-up synthetic biology will accelerate dramatically all over the world over the next 5-10 years. Investment is essential if we are to rapidly translate synthetic cell research into innovation in Europe. We also advocate for funding instruments that are adapted to  a coordinated pan-European science and technology program.

Building a synthetic cell and the fundamental knowledge that accompanies it will have an impact that goes beyond scientific discoveries and will influence a wide range of industries in the fields of health, food, energy and biobased materials:


  • 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 biodegradable polymers


  • New biofuels


  • 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 that come from the research field 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.

The European Synthetic Cell Initiative is a formal partnership between research institutions from the Netherlands, Germany, France, and Spain:

  • Delft University of Technology (TU Delft), which coordinates the initiative;
  • Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry;
  • Commissariat à l’énergie atomique et aux énergies alternative (CEA);
  • Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC).








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