The DarChemDN project aims to unleash the tremendous creative power of Darwinian evolution, for use in synthetic chemical systems. This is likely to revolutionize chemistry.

Prof. Sijbren Otto

Prof. Sijbren Otto

University of Groningen (RUG), NL
Stratingh Institute for Chemistry – Centre for Systems Chemistry

Professor of Systems Chemistry

DarChemDN coordinator, supervisor DC6 and DC10

Sijbren Otto received his M.Sc. (1994) and Ph.D. (1998) degrees cum laude from the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, working on physical organic chemistry in aqueous solutions with Prof. Jan B. F. N. Engberts. Following postdoc positions with Prof. Steven Regen (Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania ) and Prof. Jeremy Sanders (University of Cambridge, UK), he started his independent research career in 2001 at the University of Cambridge.  He returned to the University of Groningen in 2009 where he is currently professor of systems chemistry.

His research addresses the question how properties normally associated with living systems can arise from mixtures of synthetic molecules. The Otto lab developed a new class of self-replicating molecules that not only catalyze their own formation, but can also accelerate an increasing number of other reactions.  This includes reactions that produce the molecules from which the replicators grow (akin to metabolism) and molecules that assemble into droplets, which the replicators then enter, yielding primitive cell-like constructs. The Darwinian evolution of these synthetic systems is currently one of the main themes investigated by the group.

Selected publications

  • Carnall, J. M., Waudby, C. A., Belenguer, A. M., Stuart, M. C., Peyralans, J. J. P., & Otto, S. (2010). Mechanosensitive self-replication driven by self-organization. Science327(5972), 1502-1506. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1182767 
  • Sadownik, J. W., Mattia, E., Nowak, P., & Otto, S. (2016). Diversification of self-replicating molecules. Nature chemistry8(3), 264. https://doi.org/10.1038/nchem.2419 
  • Monreal Santiago, G., Liu, K., Browne, W. R., & Otto, S. (2020). Emergence of light-driven protometabolism on recruitment of a photocatalytic cofactor by a self-replicator. Nature Chemistry12(7), 603-607. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41557-020-0494-4 
  • Ottelé, J., Hussain, A. S., Mayer, C., & Otto, S. (2020). Chance emergence of catalytic activity and promiscuity in a self-replicator. Nature Catalysis3(7), 547-553. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41929-020-0463-8 
  • Yang, S., Schaeffer, G., Mattia, E., Markovitch, O., Liu, K., Hussain, A. S., … & Otto, S. (2021). Chemical fueling enables molecular complexification of self‐replicators. Angewandte Chemie133(20), 11445-11450. https://doi.org/10.1002/anie.202016196