CORDIS - EU research results

Life-inspired complex molecular systems controlled by enzymatic reaction networks

Project description

A new path to synthetic life and a breakthrough for chemistry

A long-sought goal of engineering and chemistry has been the creation of synthetic life, yet engineers and chemists faced many obstacles. A major hurdle was the construction of life-inspired systems that can sense the environment, make autonomous decisions and extract energy and resources from the environment for cell growth and division (all processes controlled by enzymatic reaction networks). The EU-funded Life-Inspired project aims to construct life-inspired systems based on the design of living matter. To reach this goal, the project will focus on creating a set of complex systems based on programmable enzymatic reaction networks.


Many of the key functions typically associated with living systems, including sensing of the environment, autonomous decision making, and extracting energy and building blocks from the environment for cell growth and division, are all governed by enzymatic reaction networks. Constructing synthetic systems that capture some of these capabilities, i.e. life-inspired systems, would represent a truly disruptive development, as they challenge our notion of what differentiates living systems from synthetic, man-made devices. However, the ability create synthetic life-inspired systems remains an elusive goal. Despite impressive progress in systems chemistry, no clear engineering principles or methodologies exist for the bottom-up construction of functional complex molecular systems The translation of the design principles of living systems into programmable and functional life-inspired systems is one of the outstanding grand challenge in chemistry. The ultimate aim of this proposal is to construct life-inspired systems based on the design blueprints of living matter To achieve this aim, I propose a key breakthrough by presenting a completely new approach to functional complex systems based on programmable enzymatic reactions networks. The envisaged approach is modular and will allow for systematic increases in complexity. The core objectives of this proposal are: - establish a completely new approach to programmable enzymatic reaction networks - compartmentalize network motifs, and separate the small molecule ‘software’ from the enzyme ‘hardware’ - demonstrate modularity and increase the complexity via communication between compartments - develop robust methods to manage the maintenance of non-equilibrium conditions - design and construct complex life-inspired systems.

Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 2 500 000,00
6525 XZ Nijmegen

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Oost-Nederland Gelderland Arnhem/Nijmegen
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 2 500 000,00

Beneficiaries (1)