Home Events Future Symposium on Building a Synthetic Cell 2017

Future Symposium on Building a Synthetic Cell 2017

July 12‐14, 2017, Ringberg Castle, Germany

A three-day Future Symposium about the challenges and opportunities of building a synthetic cell.

The symposium brought together top researchers in the synthetic cell field, as well as politicians, ethicists and representatives of funding bodies, scientific academies, and industry, paving the way for an even more widely supported European effort to build a living cell from lifeless molecular components using a bottom-up approach.

During the symposium, three Nobel Laureates declared their enthusiasm and support for the collaborative project: Jean-Marie Lehn, Jack Szostak, and Ada Yonath. For a comprehensive list of attendees of the Future Symposium, please click here.

The symposium was initiated and organized by scientists from the University of Oxford, UK (Prof. Hagan Bayley), the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry, Germany (Prof. Petra Schwille), and the Kavli Institute of Nanoscience Delft, the Netherlands (Profs. Cees Dekker and Marileen Dogterom).

Aim of the symposium

This forward-looking symposium aimed at exploring the scientific challenges, technological opportunities, and societal impact of one of the grand fundamental challenges of modern science – building a synthetic cell. It consisted of a scientific workshop including a 1-day consultation with high-level policymakers, science academies and EC commission representatives.

The meeting assembled Europe’s top scientists, including Nobel Prize Laureates, to explore one of the most exciting outstanding challenges in the life sciences: to build a functioning synthetic cell from individual molecular components. This endeavor will open up a new scientific field, uncover the foundational constituent elements of living systems, and advance entirely new application areas in biotechnology and health.

A major research effort on synthetic cells would provide a unique opportunity to position Europe as a world leader in synthetic biology. Discussions have been initiated to start a European flagship on the development of synthetic cells, see also our vision document. Indeed, this is a flagship-worthy challenge. Together with leading science policymakers, we discussed the opportunities for Europe to take a lead in this new interdisciplinary area of science.

Practical information


The symposium was by invitation only, with about 45 selected participants: Europe’s leading scientists, Nobel prize laureates, science policy makers, presidents Royal Societies, EC commission representatives. The list of invitees can be found here.


Ringberg Castle, Germany


July 12-14, 2017
July 13 is focused on the perspective from European policy makers.


The programme can be found here.

Initiators and organizing committee

Prof. Hagan Bayley, University of Oxford, United Kingdom
E: hagan.bayley@chem.ox.ac.uk

Prof. Cees Dekker, Kavli Institute of Nanoscience, TU Delft, Netherlands
E: c.dekker@tudelft.nl

Prof. Marileen Dogterom, Kavli Institute of Nanoscience, TU Delft, Netherlands
E: m.dogterom@tudelft.nl

Prof. Petra Schwille, Max-Planck Institute Biochemistry, Martinsried, Germany
E: schwille@biochem.mpg.de

Symposium whitepaper

The symposium whitepaper ‘The ultimate challenge of synthetic biology’ can be found here.