Building a synthetic cell

Themes: Life Science & Health, Chemistry, bio- & process technology

Basic research

A TRL is a measure to indicate the matureness of a developing technology. When an innovative idea is discovered it is often not directly suitable for application. Usually such novel idea is subjected to further experimentation, testing and prototyping before it can be implemented. The image below shows how to read TRL’s to categorise the innovative ideas.

Click to enlarge


The bottom-up construction of a living cell will unveil life’s fundamental nature. It raises fascinating philosophical and ethical questions, and holds great promise for novel biotechnological and medical applications.


A minimal set of individual lifeless components are used as molecular building blocks to reconstruct life-like functions and eventually an entire synthetic cell. This project cuts across discipline boundaries between biology, chemistry and biophysics.


The creation of an autonomous cell from scratch is a >10-year-long endeavour. Intermediate, shorter-term, milestones include: tailored synthesis of lipids for the industry, and a cell-free division machinery for testing antibiotics.

Dr. Christophe Danelon


Prof. Marileen Dogterom

Prof. Cees Dekker