Engineering Life

Initiative Munich

What we do

Understanding and engineering the basic principles of life

Our mission is to advance the understanding of the physics of living systems across scales to bring solutions to some of the world’s most pressing bioengineering and health issues. To achieve this, we combine novel physics-centered experimental methods, system-level computational approaches, and conceptual bottom-up theory to decipher the physical laws governing the dynamic organization of life from molecules to cells. We re-engineer life-like processes and systems by employing state-of-the-art technologies and by developing novel life-inspired approaches. Our initiative is jointly supported by the LMU Center for NanoScience, the LMU Gene Center, and the LMU Arnold Sommerfeld Center for Theoretical Physics.

 Engineering Life Seminar

February 16 at 5.00 pm CET

Michael Levin, Tufts University

Engineering with agential materials: from evolution to biological robotics

A remarkable fact distinguishing biological bodies from current robotics is that they are made of cells, which are themselves active agents with problem-solving capacities that evolved during their time as free-living unicellular organisms. How do small components scale their capabilities into emergent larger-scale systems that solve problems in new spaces? How can evolution, and bioengineers, achieve adaptive complexity by behavior-shaping, not micromanaging, this remarkable agential material? In this talk, I will describe the mechanisms and algorithms by which non-neural bioelectricity enables cells to join into networks that navigate and solve problems in anatomical morphospace, and show synthetic life forms that offer new ways to think about control of form and function. More broadly, I will discuss the multi-scale competency architecture of life, and its implications ranging across evolutionary biology, regenerative medicine, synthetic bioengineering, and cancer medicine.

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Upcoming seminars


Past seminars

Maartje Bastings


TRigidity at the Nanoscale: Engineering (Super-)Selective Interactions with DNA

Hagan Bayley

University of Oxford

Two aspects of protein nanopore technology that require more thought

Alexander A. Green

Biomedical Engineering Department, Boston University

Building Biological Control Systems Through RNA Engineering

Mathias Kolle


Manipulating light and color with soft and structured matter

Stephen Quake

Stanford University

A Decade of Molecular Cell Atlases

Jan-Philipp Junker

Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine

Cell fate decisions in health and disease

Ebbe Sloth Andersen

Aarhus University

RNA origami: The art of folding an RNA strand to create nanoscale shapes

Clifford Brangwynne

Princeton University

Mechanics of Intracellular Phase Separation

Hao Yan

Arizona State University

Designer Nucleic Acid Architectures for Programmable Self-assembly

Joachim Spatz

MPI for Medical Research Heidelberg

Matter to Life: Bottom-Up Assembly of Synthetic Cells

Stirling Churchman

Harvard Medical School

The dynamics of gene expression, from the nucleus to mitochondria

Donald E. Ingber

Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University

Human Organ Chips: Reverse Engineering Human Biology for Medical Applications

Jochen Guck

MPI for the Science of Light

Physical states of cells somewhere between life and death

L. Mahadevan

Harvard University

Controlling active matter

Alena Khmelinskaia

University of Bonn

Expanding the repertoire of de novo protein assemblies

Andrew Ellington

University of Texas at Austin

Changing the building blocks of life

Steffen Rulands

MPI for the Physics of Complex Systems

Understanding collective processes in the cell nucleus using single-cell genomics

Cameron Myhrvold

Princeton University

CRISPR-based technologies for detecting and destroying RNA viruses

Cathleen Zeymer

TU München

Design and engineering of lanthanide-binding proteins: from de novo metal coordination to catalysis

Hans Clevers

Hubrecht Institute Utrecht

Organoids to model human diseases

Irene Chen

University of California at Los Angeles

Emergent by-products of RNA evolution

Stephan W. Grill

MPI of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics

Condensation of proteins on and with DNA

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