Cobra project logo

Technical Interest Group (TIG) on autocatalytic sets

18-28 November 2013

European Centre for Living Technology


The COBRA Technical Interest Group (TIG) on autocatalytic sets (ACSs) will be hosted at ECLT from Nov 18 to 28, 2013 and it will focus on some key technical aspects concerning both the emergence and the identification of ACSs in catalytic reaction networks.

Autocatalytic sets, broadly defined as sets of molecules where the formation of each molecule is catalyzed by another molecule of the set, seem to have played an important role in the processes that led to the origin of life. Furthermore, they also perform very important tasks in the current cell architecture; hence, exploiting the properties of these bio-chemical structures could lead to the creation of new living technologies.

An important aspect of the ACSs concerns their spontaneous emergence. Although their appearance has been shown in several theoretical models, it is very difficult to reproduce their emergence in wet laboratories.

The TIG will consist of an intensive two-weeks study period aimed at understanding in depth the behaviour of these theoretical models, on the basis of extensive previous work at ECLT and Lausanne. The main topics that will be addressed are:

  • The role of the ACSs in bio-chemical network dynamics
  • The network structures favoring the formation of such kind of dynamical and topological structures
  • The algorithms devoted to the identification of ACSs.

In this period ECLT will host dr. Wim Hordijk, a well-known researcher in autocatalytic sets, as well as the interested COBRA partners, for working with Alessandro Filisetti and other post-docs of ECLT, with prof. Irene Poli and with proff. Roberto Serra and Marco Villani from Modena University.


Alessandro Filisetti holds a PhD in “Multiscale Modeling, Computational Simulation and Characterization in Material and Life Sciences” obtained at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, in 2011. His research interests concern the analysis and the characterization of self-organizing behaviors in both natural and artificial systems. Currently his research focuses on two distinct topics: protocell models and propagation of sustainable initiatives, innovations in general, in socio-economic energy systems.

Wim Hordijk is a well-known researcher in complex systems. In particular, in the last years he has worked on autocatalytic reaction sets with Mike Steel and they have published an extremely interesting series of papers. In the beginning, they developed a method to identify such sets, later they deepened the conceptual aspects, developing the notion of RAF sets (reflexive autocatalytic sets).

Irene Poli is Professor of Statistics at the Ca' Foscari University of Venice and Director of the European Centre for Living Technology. She leads a research group on Statistical Design of Experiments and Data Analysis for combinatorially complex high dimensional problems, developing a new approach to design and modelling based on the concept of evolution.

Roberto Serra since 2004 is full professor of computer science and engineering at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia. His main focus areas include: modelling genetic regulatory networks, modelling the dynamics of populations of protocells, modelling cascades of innovations in social systems.

Marco Villani is researcher and professor in Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia. Hewas and is involved in several Italian and European projects, applying complex systems concepts in areas that require strong interdisciplinary interactions.