Kate Adamala: "Life, but not alive"

Thursday, February 6, 2020 2:30 pm - 2:30 pm EST (GMT -05:00)

WICI and the Waterloo Centre for Microbial Research (WCMR) Present: 

"Life, but not alive" with Kate Adamala

Watch the video recording of this talk on Vimeo.com

Join WICI and the Waterloo Centre for Microbial Research in welcoming Kate Admala on Thursday, February 6th in DC 1302.

purple and pink plasma ball


Building live cells from scratch, from non-living components, will soon become a reality. Being able to construct whole cells, precisely manipulating molecules and designing all biological processes, will give us unprecedented control over living systems. Already, on the way to engineering organisms from simpler building blocks, we are learning more about how life works.

Synthetic cells find many applications in basic and applied research. Building cells allows us to address fundamental questions about the nature of life, investigating history of life on Earth and elsewhere in the Universe. We are developing new biocomputing solutions, towards building a living computer and computers interfacing with natural tissues. We investigate complex natural processes on biochemical, cellular and population levels, and we are testing all basic assumptions made by biologists from the beginning of science.

Synthetic cells can be used for personalized medicine: reconstructing patient's specific mutations in each synthetic cell sample and testing drugs for that very specific variant of the disease. More extreme medical applications are also possible: treating astronauts during long term space missions with drugs custom made in specifically designed synthetic cells.

Synthetic cells offer the new frontier in bioengineering: with the ability to fully control every aspect of living cell, we can move beyond messy natural biology and change our understanding of life.


Kate Adamala, Assistant Professor of Genetics, Cell Biology and Development at University of Minnesota, is a biochemist building synthetic cells. Her research aims at understanding chemical principles of biology, using artificial cells to create new tools for bioengineering, drug development, and basic research. The interests of the Protobiology lab span questions from the origin and earliest evolution of life, using synthetic biology to colonize space, to the future of biotechnology and medicine. Kate is a co-founder of the synthetic cell therapeutics startup Synlife, and one of the leaders of the Build-a-Cell synthetic cell community.