Current research projects


OUTONOMY: fleshing out autonomy beyond the individual

Ministry of Science Project (Ref.: PID2019-104576GB-I00) [2020-2023]
IPs: Xabier E. Barandiaran & Leonardo Bich

“Outonomy: fleshing out autonomy beyond the individual” is a research project lead by Leonardo Bich and Xabier E. Barandiaran with Kepa Ruiz-Mirazo, Jon Umerez and Arantza Etxeberria as members of the research team and a network 24 research collaborators including PhD students, Postdocs and international researchers. With project ID PID2019-104576GB-I00 Outonomy was awarded with a predoctoral student grant and 33.093,50 EUR by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation for the period 01/06/2020-31/05/2023 within 2019 Call for “R + D + i Projects”, as part of the framework of the State Programs for the Generation of Knowledge and Scientific and Technological Strengthening of the R + D + i and R + D + i System Oriented to the Challenges of Society of the National Plan for Scientific and Technical Research and Innovation 2017-2020.

More information:


IAS-Research: Centre for Life, Mind and Society

Funding for our basic research activity (Basque Government: ‘Consolidated Groups’).

PI: Kepa Ruiz-Mirazo


Protometabolic pathways: exploring the chemical roots of systems biology

European Research Project — ITN (Marie Curie Innovative Training Network)
‘ProtoMet’ [2018-2022]

Understanding how prebiotic chemistry gave rise to life as we know it represents one of the greatest enduring mysteries. The complete absence of a historical record requires the collaboration of scientists from different disciplines with access to advanced tools in order to make any meaningful progress. Here, we plan to exploit this tremendous challenge to train a new generation of scientists to think big, but also to work methodically and logically alongside colleagues from academia and industry. Eight Early-Stage Researchers (ESRs) will be recruited to work in laboratories with expertise in systems chemistry, synthetic biology, microfluidics, and science philosophy to develop together a reconstituted protometabolism within compartments consisting of coacervates, vesicles, coacervate containing vesicles, and compartments etched into microfluidic chips. The underlying protometabolism will be composed of triose glycolysis and a reverse citric acid cycle and will be regulated by (metallo)peptide catalysts. Importantly, the protometabolism will support the maintenance of the compartment that houses the protocell. The ESRs that primarily focus on the construction of compartments that mimic protocellular structures will gain firsthand experience in how their formulations could be exploited as drug delivery vehicles through secondments at partner organizations. Similarly, the ESRs that develop (metallo)peptide catalysts will apply their newfound skills to the development of drug molecules through a secondment at a company that specializes in metallodrug formulations. Ultimately, by becoming experts in elucidating the chemical underpinnings of all known living cells, the ESRs will be extremely well positioned to enter a wide variety of research fields from synthetic biology to medicinal chemistry in either industry or academia.

Academic partners and PIs (PhD supervisors)
Sheref Mansy (CIBIO, University of Trento — Italy)
Joseph Moran (University of Strasbourg — France)
Dora Tang (Max Planck Institute, Dresden — Germany)
Matthew Powner (University College London — United Kingdom)
Peter Walde (ETH-Zürich — Switzerland)
Kepa Ruiz-Mirazo (University of the Basque Country — Spain)

More info: ‘ProtoMet’ web page.