Building a synthetic cell is one of the grand scientific and intellectual challenges of the 21st century. While we now 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. Cellular life, which provides the fundament of most organisms, appears to be the result of a collection of highly controlled, energy consuming, dynamic self-assembly and self-organization processes that lead to autonomous entities that can reproduce, transfer information, interact, and evolve.
Building a synthetic cell is the most fundamental approach towards elucidating the cell’s intricate working and the basic life-defining principles. Truly understanding life will bring huge intellectual, scientific, and technological rewards. At the same time it will raise fascinating philosophical and ethical questions, as it impacts on our fundamental understanding of ‘who we are’.