Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona & CSH External Faculty
Ricard Solé is ICREA research professor at the Catalan Institute for research and advanced studies, currently working at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra, where he is the head of the Complex Systems Lab located at the PRBB. He teaches undergraduate courses on Biomathematics, Biological Design, and Complex Diseases.
Ricard completed degrees in both physics and biology at the University of Barcelona and received his PhD in physics at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia. He is also External Professor of the Santa Fe Institute (New Mexico, USA), fellow of the European Centre for Living Technology (Venice, Italy), and external faculty of the Center for Evolution and Cancer at UCSF. He is member of the editorial board of Biology Direct and PLoS ONE. He has received a European Research Council Advanced Grant (ERC 2012) and support from the Fundación Botin.
Ricard’s current research focuses on understanding the evolutionary origins of complex systems, using both mathematical models and experimental approaches based on synthetic biology. He has proposed the concept of “synthetic major transitions” as a unifying framework to explore the origins of innovation in evolution using a parallel approach, namely the 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 deals with 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. Moreover, Ricard 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, from synthetic biology and cellular circuits to ecological communities.