NWO Symposium Building Blocks of Life 2 March 2018

20 March 2018

On 2 March 2018, around 150 life scientists came together during the NWO’s Building Blocks of Life symposium in Ede. The participants represented a wide variety of scientific disciplines – and not just universities and research institutions: there were also representatives from businesses and ministries.

The living cell, with its thousands of molecules and functions, is the basic unit of all life on Earth. Scientists in various disciplines study its mysteries, whether from the perspective of physics, chemistry, biology, medicine, IT and systems analysis. The symposium brought together researchers, the business world and scientific consortia who all, in their various disciplines, take an active interest in the multidisciplinary topic of the Building Blocks of Life. The symposium on 2 March focused on knowledge sharing and cross-pollination between researchers who are working on the same topic but who do not often meet at other scientific conferences. Who is doing what? Where does their work intersect? And, above all, how can their initiatives support each other?

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Grounded in science

During the symposium, distinguished researchers presented innovative technologies and scientific ambitions were shared by leading members of significant scientific consortia in the Netherlands. The participants also explored a common horizon for fundamental breakthroughs and useful applications within the broader topic. The keynote presentation was given by Professor Sven Panke, professor of bioprocess technology at the ETH in Zurich, whose research combines synthetic biology, biocatalysis and process engineering to develop new processes and products for the chemical and pharmaceutical industries.

Interdisciplinary programme

Building Blocks of Life is an NWO programme that arose from the Top Sectors policy. Sixteen projects, with a combined budget of around €10 million, focus on how the living cell works. The projects unite scientists from various disciplines: physics, chemistry, biology, medicine, computer science and systems analysis. Although their objectives vary widely – from gaining an understanding of fundamental processes to the search for new biofuels, medicines and plant varieties – their interests overlap at the scientific core: the building blocks of life. Building Blocks of Life aims to provide a national platform to bring together the scientific initiatives surrounding this important topic, and to facilitate knowledge sharing and cross-pollination. The symposium represents a successful first step towards the realization of this ambition.

Read the full summary of the symposium

Source: NWO