BN-based EVOLF wins Summit Grant

Last week, the Dutch Research Council announced the five recipients of the Summit grants, which financially supports research consortia operating at the absolute forefront of scientific advancement. One of the awarded projects is uniquely Nanobiological: Evolving life from non-life, or EVOLF, is centred around the effort to build a synthetic cell bottom-up. The project is led by familiar faces: professors Cees Dekker, Marileen Dogterom, and Gijsje Koenderink will all be part of the 10-year effort to create such a cell, that can perform all the regular tasks and duties – i.e., replicate, communicate, potentially even evolve – a regular cell is able to. Next to the regular costs associated to doing research, the grant covers around 100 PhD student and post-doc positions divided over various institutions in the Netherlands.

The unique character of EVOLF has garnered quite some attention from Dutch media, both enthusiastic and critical (the comparison to Frankenstein has been made more than once). Further emphasizing its relation to Nanobiology, the project has a deeply transdisciplinary character: next to the obvious involvement of (bio)physicists, nanobiologists, and  chemists, the team endeavours to also focus on considerations surrounding artificial intelligence and philosophy. Together, they will attempt to draw the border between living and lifeless.