Research labs

Complex Systems lab

The Complex Systems lab focuses on understanding the evolutionary origins of complex systems, using both mathematical models and experimental approaches based on synthetic biology. This lab has proposed and developed the concept of Major Synthetic Transitions as a framework for exploring the origins of innovation in evolution using a parallel approach, namely our potential for building or simulating synthetic systems that can recreate past evolutionary events. This includes the origin of protocells, multicellular systems, symbiosis, cognition and language. Another research area addresses Unstable Evolutionary Dynamics, namely the dynamics of biological systems (particularly RNA viruses and cancer) that exhibit a tendency towards high genetic instability as part of their adaptation potential. The Complex Systems lab also introduced the concept of «Terraforming» endangered or human-made ecosystems to avoid catastrophic shifts. The success of this proposal will require the development of a new synthesis involving multiple scales and conceptual frameworks, ranging from synthetic biology and cellular circuits to ecological communities. Finally, it also studies the evolution of artificial systems, in both silico ecosystems and technological networks, in its search for a true definition of evolutionary dynamics and technological phylogenies.

Principal investigator: Ricard Solé

Members of the lab: Guim Aiguadé, PhD Student; Núria Conde, Postdoctoral Researcher; Aina Ollé, PhD Student; Josep Sardanyés, PhD Student; Sergi Valverde, Postdoctoral Researcher; Blai Vidiella, PhD Student

Congresses organised: “Liquid Brains, Solid Brains” at the Santa Fe Institute, United States

Oral presentations and talks given: 12

Main publications and other research activities:

Sardanyés, J.; Martínez, R.; Simó, C. and Solé, R. Abrupt transitions to tumor extinction: A quasispecies phenotypic model. Journal of Mathematical Biology, 2017

Valverde, S., Montoya, J.M.; Joppa, L. and Solé, R. The architecture of mutualistic networks as an evolutionary spandrel. Nature Ecology and Evolution, 2017

Macía, J.; Vidiella, B. and Solé, R. Synthetic associative learning in engineered multicellular consortia. Journal of the Royal Society Interface, 2017

Maestre, F.; Solé, R. and Singh, B.K. Microbial biotechnology as a tool to restore degraded drylands, Microbial Biotechnology, 2017

Amor, D.R.; Montañez, R.; Duran-Nebreda, S. and Solé, R. Spatial dynamics of synthetic microbial mutualists and their parasites. PLOS Computational Biology, 2017

Solé, R. and Elena, S. Viruses as Complex Adaptive Systems Princeton UniversityPress (to appear)

Main outreach activities:

Organisation of the Science at Christmas programme, which took place in the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (CCCB) on 13 December. The programme consisted of several lectures around the Blade Runner film saga in order to ponder the future scenarios it raises and to discover what challenges science will have to confront in this world’s time to come.

Funding (active projects in 2017 only):

Name of the project ERC Advanced Grant SYNCOM
Principal investigator Ricard Solé
Funding institution European Research Council


Name of the project Biological computation
Principal investigator Ricard Solé
Funding institution Fundación Botín-Banco de Santander


Name of the project Synthetic Transitions (SYNTRANS)
Principal investigator Ricard Sole
Funding institution MINECO-FIS2015-67616-P (FEDER)

More information: Complex Systems lab’s website | Ricard Solé’s Twitter account

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.