To understand the fundamental principles of life it is necessary to study living systems bottom-up. Building a synthetic cell will be a key step in this direction and will undoubtedly have a great impact on science and society as well. A quote from the theoretical physicist Richard Feynman "What I cannot create, I do not understand" sums it all up. From my perspective as a theoretical physicist a truly quantitative approach towards understanding living systems will require that we are able to build such systems and at the same time develop novel theoretical concepts and paradigms. The flagship would enable us to reach this goal and fundamentally change the way we view living systems.
There are many ways to study life, and one that is particularly appealing is regarding it as self-organized active soft matter that is away from equilibrium ``just the right way’’. This proposal is of utmost fundamental importance as it provides a perfect complementary environment in which this notion can be explored and developed. A natural starting point will be to think about how we can begin to put together simple building blocks - from basic ingredients that we fully understand - that would exhibit the kind of active behaviour we find in living systems. A next important question to address is the stability of a living system made of active components, when the nonequilibrium processes that characterize life such as motility, chemical signalling, and cell division are present. The complementary studies of these different aspects, which can be harboured in such an all-encompassing European flagship initiative, can help create all the elements that are required for making living matter from the bottom-up. This initiative has my full and enthusiastic support, and I'd like to congratulate Professor Marileen Dogterom for taking the leadership of this important campaign.
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