I write in strong support of this flagship proposal. This proposal addresses the most central and exciting question that we can ask about nature: "what is life?", or in other words: "how does a collection of nonliving molecules together generate a living cell?". The premise is that we can only truly understand life if we can recreate it from its component parts. Now is a perfect time to launch such an ambitious programme, because advances in the life sciences and in physics have converged on a detailed understanding of the component parts of life while chemistry has at the same time come to a point where (supra)molecular systems can be synthesized that are able to mimic key functions of biomolecules such as self-recognition and mechanochemical activity. This flagship proposal presents a unique opportunity to bring life sciences, physics and chemistry together and put Europe at the international forefront of synthetic biology. In addition to providing revolutionary new insights into the origins of life, building a synthetic cell would also open a multitude of applications. Synthetic cells can be used as factories for bioactive compounds, as test beds in drug development, and as building blocks for materials with life-like properties such as stimuli-response, adaptibility, and self-repair.
"What I cannot create, I do not understand", is the famous quote from the physicist Richard Feynman. Building a living cell is clearly one of the most difficult, yet important challenges that lies ahead of us. This exciting Flagship proposal tackles this challenge and will provide a major leap forward in our understanding of what defines life. I fully support this project and its multidisciplinary approach, which will provide Europe with a competitive lead in the fields of synthetic biology and biotechnology.