1. Structural Biology and Molecular Biophysics
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Science Forum: Building a community to engineer synthetic cells and organelles from the bottom-up

  1. Oskar Staufer  Is a corresponding author
  2. Jacqueline A De Lora
  3. Eleonora Bailoni
  4. Alisina Bazrafshan
  5. Amelie S Benk
  6. Kevin Jahnke
  7. Zachary A Manzer
  8. Lado Otrin
  9. Telmo Díez Pérez
  10. Judee Sharon
  11. Jan Steinkühler
  12. Katarzyna P Adamala
  13. Bruna Jacobson
  14. Marileen Dogterom
  15. Kerstin Göpfrich
  16. Darko Stefanovic
  17. Susan R Atlas
  18. Michael Grunze
  19. Matthew R Lakin
  20. Andrew P Shreve
  21. Joachim P Spatz  Is a corresponding author
  22. Gabriel P López  Is a corresponding author
  1. Max Planck Institute for Medical Research, Germany
  2. Max Planck School Matter to Life, Germany
  3. Max Planck Bristol Center for Minimal Biology, University of Bristol, United Kingdom
  4. University of Groningen, Netherlands
  5. Emory University, United States
  6. Cornell University, United States
  7. Max Planck Institute for Dynamics of Complex Technical Systems, Germany
  8. University of New Mexico, United States
  9. University of Minnesota, United States
  10. Northwestern University, United States
  11. BaSyC Consortium, Netherlands
Feature Article
Cite this article as: eLife 2021;10:e73556 doi: 10.7554/eLife.73556
1 figure and 2 additional files


Figure 1 with 1 supplement
Research on engineering synthetic cells and organelles, as represented at SynCell2020/21, covers a wide range of experimental systems including engineered cells created using standard transformation techniques, minimal cells, membrane-encapsulated synthetic cells, and all of the above with the possible inclusion of engineered membraneless organelles that produce hierarchical structures.

The common objective of the field is to engineer synthetic structures with defined complexity to mimic biological systems on multiple length scales. The creation and characterization of these experimental systems draws on a wide variety of interdisciplinary inputs, including biological cells, biochemical components (such as cell-free TXTL extracts), and control programs that encode desired behavior in a variety of formats. In addition, a broad range of computational and experimental tools are required.

Figure 1—figure supplement 1
The International Conference on Engineering Synthetic Cells and Organelles was originally scheduled to take place in 2020 in Santa Fé in the United States with 150 participants.

The global pandemic necessitated the presentation of the program over the next year in a free, virtual format (SynCell2020/21), which greatly enhanced global participation. The world map depicts the origin and diversity of the participants, as well as the major research and educational initiatives in the field of engineering synthetic cells and organelles. Logos indicate organizations that made the conferences possible.

Additional files

Supplementary file 1

Supplementary file providing a summary of the SynCell 2021 lecture series, oral and poster contributions as well as quotations from early-career panelists.

Table S1: Presentations at SynCell2020. Table S2: Presentations at the SynCell2021 Spring Lecture Series with Build-A-Cell. Table S3: Featured and Contributed Oral Presentations at SynCell2021. Table S4: Poster Presentations at SynCell2021. Table S5: Lightning Talks at SynCell2021 (Presenters chosen by jury from poster presenters). Box S1: Quotations from the early-career panelists of the SynCell20/21 workshop on the future challenges in the field.

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