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HKU X HKSTP Webinar: Programmable Behaviour in Synthetic Protobiology


Professor Stephen Mann

School of Chemistry

University of Bristol, UK

Date & Time

Thursday, 17 June 2021

9:00 am


Via Zoom


Recent progress in the chemical construction of micro-compartmentalized semipermeable colloidal objects comprising integrated biomimetic functions is paving the way towards rudimentary forms of artificial cell-like entities (protocells) for modelling complex biological systems, exploring the origin of life, and advancing future proto-living technologies.Although several new types of protocells are currently available, the design of synthetic protocell communities and investigation of their collective properties has received little attention.In this talk, Professor Mann will review some recent experiments undertaken in his laboratory that demonstrate simple forms of programmable behaviour in synthetic protocells. Four new areas are currently under investigation: (i) enzyme-powered motility and oscillation in sensory protocells, (ii) DNA-based signal processing in synthetic protocell communication networks, (iii) coordinated assembly of beating prototissues, and (iv) sociability and antagonism in synthetic protocell communities. He will use these new model systems to discuss programmable pathways towards chemical cognition, distributed computation, collective chemomechanical dynamics, artificial predatory and endosymbiosis in compartmentalized artificial life-like micro-ensembles.

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Contact for


Prof. A.H.C. Shum

+(852) 3917 7904

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