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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.


What are synthetic cells?

picture: Graham Johnson

‘A cell is the basic unit of life as we know it. It is the smallest unit capable of independent reproduction.’ – British Society for Cell Biology

No matter how small, a cell still has much to reveal to help us understand how life works. In many research institutes around the world, researchers are trying 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, also known as bottom-up synthetic biology, could hold the key to revolutionary new technologies in sustainable energy, smart biomaterials, food, and medicine, based on mimicking natural processes.

Imagine that instead of modifying existing cells as we do now, we could build them from scratch, from basic molecular components. With this knowledge, we could reduce pollution and greenhouse gas emissions through alternatives to plastics, cement and animal products; create clean fuels and make materials that are 100% reusable or capable of healing themselves when damaged.

The European synthetic cell initiative –  a pan-European effort in synthetic cell research and technology

Thanks to national funding, national and bi-national research initiatives have recently emerged in Europe:

These programs and talented researchers have strengthened the excellence of European research. So we decided to combine scientific efforts under the European Synthetic Cell Initiative to address a bigger challenge: bridging the gap between research and technology to deliver smart, green innovations based on synthetic cell research.

The mission of our initiative is therefore twofold:

  • to coordinate and strengthen the efforts of bottom-up synthetic cell scientists to build a functional synthetic cell from its basic components;
  • to seek to translate – in a responsible way – this knowledge into technological applications for a more sustainable world and healthier people.

We focus our activities on three main areas:

  1. fostering collaboration among scientists on bottom-up synthetic cell research;
  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.

Through collaboration with industry, exchange of research staff and sharing of infrastructure, this virtual institute would strive to develop applications, standardize research protocols and create a community of young, highly skilled European researchers in synthetic biology.

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.

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Contact us

If you want to support our initiative or share ideas with us, please contact the European Synthetic Cell Initiative bureau by sending an email to: syntheticcell@tudelft.nl

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We are a network of excellent European research laboratories, institutions, and companies who joined force to translate synthetic cell research into innovation. By joining our community, you will receive the latest updates on our initiative; be able to contact and interact with other members of our community; and share information such as new publications, job openings, and funding opportunities. Join us









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