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

June 16 at 3.30 pm CEST
LMU, Kleiner Physikhörsaal N020 and online

Irene Chen, UCLA

Keeping it together: from protocells to phages
Life may have begun from self-replicating RNA molecules. The encapsulation of RNA inside vesicles creates the potential for emergent properties. We have found that encapsulation leads to greater ribozyme activity, improved folding, and even faster evolution inside vesicles, indicating advantages to cell-based early life. In addition, our studies on phage-based nanomaterials demonstrates important advantages of delivering cargo at the nano- rather than molecular scale. Our in vitro and in vivo studies show the importance of considering spatial organization for both understanding the origin of life and developing applications in biotechnology.

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Upcoming seminars


Past seminars

Frank Jülicher

Max-Planck-Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems

Self-organization of active cellular processes

Michael Levin

Tufts University

Engineering with agential materials: from evolution to biological robotics

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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