Marileen Dogterom, Professor of Bionanoscience at TU Delft, and John van der Oost, Professor of Microbiology at Wageningen University & Research, have been awarded the NWO Spinoza Prize; the highest award in Dutch science. Dogterom and Van der Oost are two of the four researchers who have each been awarded 2.5 million euros for scientific research. Minister Ingrid van Engelshoven of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science and the president of the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), Stan Gielen, presented the awards in the Koninklijke Schouwburg in The Hague on 12 September 2018.
The 1st International Symposium on Building a Synthetic Cell (BaSyC) was held on 28 and 29 August 2018 in Delft, the Netherlands. The global scientific meeting was fully dedicated to research on the bottom-up assembly of a functioning synthetic cell.
The BaSyC Symposium brought together top researchers in the synthetic cell field, as well as representatives of the industry and ethicists. During the symposium, 160 participants from 10 different countries attended 21 presentations, covering all aspects of building an autonomous, self-reproducing synthetic cell.
Chair of the BaSyC Steering Committee Marileen Dogterom is one of seven people who will be designated as Society Fellows of the Biophysical Society. She is awarded this honor for her pioneering experimental work on elucidating the physical mechanisms that govern assembly and dynamics of cytoskeleton filaments, in particular microtubules.
Can we build a living cell from lifeless components?
...and in doing so, understand how life works?
With this initiative we aim to address one of the grand scientific challenges of this century: building a synthetic cell from its molecular building blocks.
Understanding the mechanisms of cellular life will bring vast intellectual, scientific and technological rewards.
Artist’s impression of a synthetic cell, representing the three basic processes taking place in a living cell: cell fuelling (green), DNA processing (orange/red), and cell division (blue). In the BaSyC programme, we take on the challenge to bring the essential components of a cell together, controlling the complex interactions among them, and constructing a synthetic cell with the basic functionalities of a living cell: self-sustained growth, transmission of information, and division
Building a synthetic cell is one of the grand scientific and intellectual challenges of the 21st century. While we have extensive knowledge about the molecular building blocks that form the basis of modern life, we currently do not understand how these building blocks collectively operate to define life. With BaSyC we propose to build a synthetic cell from the bottom-up, which arguably is the most fundamental approach towards elucidating the cell’s intricate working and basic life-defining principles. Truly understanding cellular life will bring huge intellectual, scientific, and technological rewards. At the same time, it will raise fascinating philosophical and ethical questions about how society may cope with new opportunities that result from these new fundamental insights.