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Biomimetic self-replication and evolution

The creation of artificial cell-like systems from inanimate components capable of mimicking the remarkable complexity of living cells remains a fundamental challenge of synthetic biology and Origin of Life re­search. Although there have been substantial advances towards the reconstitution of subsystems based on biological macromolecules, the recreation of the most fundamental aspects of life (such as autonomous growth, replication and adaptation through evolution and feedback-control) is still in its infancy.

Our re­search group will address these challenges with a bottom-up approach using reconstituted protein and nucleic acid components. Specifically, our re­search aims 1) to reconstitute fully customizable and replicable genetic systems for biomimetic cell-like automata, 2) to increase the autonomy and lifetime of such replicators by reconstituting and evolving genomically encoded biosynthetic pathways and mecha­nisms for feedback regulation of gene expression and 3) to observe and quantitatively describe genome evolution of such replicators under selective pressure using deep-sequencing approaches.

Origin of Life

Answering the questions of how life emerged on Earth and whether life is also possible elsewhere in the universe, belongs to the most profound challenges in science. In particular the harsh conditions on early Earth or celestial objects makes the formation of complex biomolecules required for catalysis and in­for­mation storage, which seem necessary for complex lifeforms, an intriguingly difficult task. We will try to further explore and expand on recent findings which showed that primitive biocatalysts such as short ribozymes do very well in extreme conditions in­clu­ding ice and other dehydrating conditions.


To achieve our goals, we will employ a variety of biochemical methods ranging from standard protein and nucleic acid production / purification to more demanding applications such as de­sign, assembly, characterization and evolution of complex protein machineries and ribozymes.

Location & approach

The campus of TU Dort­mund Uni­ver­sity is located close to interstate junction Dort­mund West, where the Sauerlandlinie A 45 (Frankfurt-Dort­mund) crosses the Ruhrschnellweg B 1 / A 40. The best interstate exit to take from A 45 is "Dort­mund-Eichlinghofen" (closer to Campus Süd), and from B 1 / A 40 "Dort­mund-Dorstfeld" (closer to Campus Nord). Signs for the uni­ver­si­ty are located at both exits. Also, there is a new exit before you pass over the B 1-bridge leading into Dort­mund.

To get from Campus Nord to Campus Süd by car, there is the connection via Vo­gel­pothsweg/Baroper Straße. We recommend you leave your car on one of the parking lots at Campus Nord and use the H-Bahn (suspended monorail system), which conveniently connects the two campuses.

TU Dort­mund Uni­ver­sity has its own train station ("Dort­mund Uni­ver­si­tät"). From there, suburban trains (S-Bahn) leave for Dort­mund main station ("Dort­mund Hauptbahnhof") and Düsseldorf main station via the "Düsseldorf Airport Train Station" (take S-Bahn number 1, which leaves every 20 or 30 minutes). The uni­ver­si­ty is easily reached from Bochum, Essen, Mülheim an der Ruhr and Duisburg.

You can also take the bus or subway train from Dort­mund city to the uni­ver­si­ty: From Dort­mund main station, you can take any train bound for the Station "Stadtgarten", usually lines U41, U45, U 47 and U49. At "Stadtgarten" you switch trains and get on line U42 towards "Hombruch". Look out for the Station "An der Palmweide". From the bus stop just across the road, busses bound for TU Dort­mund Uni­ver­sity leave every ten minutes (445, 447 and 462). Another option is to take the subway routes U41, U45, U47 and U49 from Dort­mund main station to the stop "Dort­mund Kampstraße". From there, take U43 or U44 to the stop "Dort­mund Wittener Straße". Switch to bus line 447 and get off at "Dort­mund Uni­ver­si­tät S".

The H-Bahn is one of the hallmarks of TU Dort­mund Uni­ver­sity. There are two stations on Campus Nord. One ("Dort­mund Uni­ver­si­tät S") is directly located at the suburban train stop, which connects the uni­ver­si­ty directly with the city of Dort­mund and the rest of the Ruhr Area. Also from this station, there are connections to the "Technologiepark" and (via Campus Süd) Eichlinghofen. The other station is located at the dining hall at Campus Nord and offers a direct connection to Campus Süd every five minutes.

The AirportExpress is a fast and convenient means of transport from Dort­mund Airport (DTM) to Dort­mund Central Station, taking you there in little more than 20 minutes. From Dort­mund Central Station, you can continue to the uni­ver­si­ty campus by interurban railway (S-Bahn). A larger range of in­ter­na­tio­nal flight connections is offered at Düsseldorf Airport (DUS), which is about 60 kilometres away and can be directly reached by S-Bahn from the uni­ver­si­ty station.

The facilities of TU Dort­mund Uni­ver­sity are spread over two campuses, the larger Campus North and the smaller Campus South. Additionally, some areas of the uni­ver­si­ty are located in the adjacent "Technologiepark".

Site Map of TU Dort­mund Uni­ver­sity (Second Page in English).