Prof. dr. Sijbren Otto

How the analysis of complex mixtures enables new approaches to the origin and synthesis of life 

How the immense complexity of living organisms has arisen is one of the most intriguing questions in contemporary science. We have explored experimentally how organization and function can emerge spontaneously from complex molecular networks in aqueous solution. Building on detailed analysis using a range of chromatographic, mass spectrometric, spectroscopic and microscopic techniques we discovered self-replicating molecules as well as the selective formation of large folded molecules. We witnessed spontaneous replicator differentiation (akin to speciation as it occurs in biology), adaptation to a changing environment, and the emergence of a primitive metabolism. Thus, the prospect of synthesizing life de-novo is becoming increasingly realistic.

About Sijbren Otto
Sijbren Otto received his Ph.D. degree in 1998 from the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. Following postdocs at Lehigh University (USA) and the University of Cambridge (UK) he started his independent research career in 2001 in Cambridge. He moved back to the University of Groningen in 2009 where he is currently Professor of Systems Chemistry. He was awarded VICI and ERC starting and advanced grants. His research is focused on emergent behavior in complex chemical systems.