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.

Lab website: Complex Systems Lab

Principal Investigator

Ricard Solé Vicente

Solé Vicente, Ricard
ICREA Research Professor (UPF)
Complex Systems Lab

Current members

Victor Maull Miquel

Maull Miquel, Victor
Predoctoral researcher
Complex Sistems

Jordi Piñero Fernández

Piñero Fernández, Jordi
Predoctoral Researcher
Complex Systems

Pla Mauri, Jordi
Predoctoral Researcher
Complex Systems

Ongoing projects


Seoane LF, Solé R. 2023. How Turing parasites expand the computational landscape of digital life. Physical Review E, 108(4):044407. DOI:10.1103/PhysRevE.108.044407

Aguadé‐Gorgorió G, Costa J, Solé R. 2023. An oncospace for human cancers. BioEssays, 45(5). DOI:10.1002/bies.202200215

Vidiella B, Solé R. 2022. Ecological firewalls for synthetic biology. iScience, 25(7):104658. DOI:10.1016/j.isci.2022.104658

Solé R, Levin S. 2022. Ecological complexity and the biosphere: the next 30 years. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 377(1857). DOI:10.1098/rstb.2021.0376

Solé R, Seoane LF. 2022. Evolution of Brains and Computers: The Roads Not Taken. Entropy, 24(5):665. DOI: 10.3390/e24050665.

Maull V, Solé R. 2022. Network-level containment of single-species bioengineering. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 377(1857). DOI:10.1098/rstb.2021.0396

Bonforti A, Solé R. 2022. Unicellular–multicellular evolutionary branching driven by resource limitations. Journal of The Royal Society Interface, 19(191). DOI:10.1098/rsif.2022.0018

Aguadé-Gorgorió G, Kauffman S, Solé R. 2022. Transition Therapy: Tackling the Ecology of Tumor Phenotypic Plasticity. Bulletin of Mathematical Biology, 84(1):24. DOI:10.1007/s11538-021-00970-9

Vidiella B, Guillamon A, Sardanyés J, Maull V, Pla J, Conde N, Solé R. 2021. Engineering self-organized criticality in living cells. Nature Communications, 12(1):4415. DOI:10.1038/s41467-021-24695-4

Solé R, Sardanyés J, Elena SF. 2021. Phase transitions in virology. Reports on Progress in Physics, 84(11):115901. DOI:10.1088/1361-6633/ac2ab0

Solé R, Conde-Pueyo N, Guillamon A, Maull V, Pla J, Sardanyés J, Vidiella B. 2021. Synthetic criticality in cellular brains. Journal of Physics: Complexity, 2(4):041001. DOI:10.1088/2632-072X/ac35b3

Solé R, Aguadé-Gorgorió G. 2021. The ecology of cancer differentiation therapy. Journal of Theoretical Biology, 511(110552). DOI:10.1016/j.jtbi.2020.110552

Duran-Nebreda S, Pla J, Vidiella B, Piñero J, Conde-Pueyo N, Solé R. 2021. Synthetic Lateral Inhibition in Periodic Pattern Forming Microbial Colonies. ACS Synthetic Biology, 10(2): 277–285. DOI: 10.1021/acssynbio.0c00318

Vidiella B, Sardanyés J, Solé R V. 2020. Synthetic soil crusts against green-desert transitions: A spatial model: Synthetic ecosystems’ terraformation. Royal Society Open Science,7(8). DOI:10.1098/rsos.200161rsos200161

Solé R, Valverde S. 2020. Evolving complexity: how tinkering shapes cells, software and ecological networks. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 375(1796). DOI:10.1098/rstb.2019.0325

Solé R, Valverde S. 2020. Evolving complexity: how tinkering shapes cells, software and ecological networks. The Royal Society.  doi: 10.1098/rstb.2019.0325

Solé R. 2020. Using information theory to decode network coevolution. Science, 368(6497):1315-1316. DOI:10.1126/science.abc6344

Seoane LF, Solé R. 2020. Criticality in Pareto Optimal Grammars? Entropy, 22(2):165. DOI: 10.3390/e22020165.

Ollé-Vila A, Seoane LF, Solé R. 2020. Ageing, computation and the evolution of neural regeneration processes. Journal of The Royal Society Interface, 17(168). DOI:10.1098/rsif.2020.0181

Conde-Pueyo N, Vidiella B, Sardanyés J, Berdugo M, Maestre FT, Lorenzo V de, Solé R. 2020. Synthetic biology for terraformation lessons from mars, earth, and the microbiome. Life, 10(2):1–27. DOI: 10.3390/life10020014

Berdugo M, Delgado-Baquerizo M, Soliveres S, Hernández-Clemente R, Zhao Y, Gaitán JJ, Gross N, Saiz H, Maire V, Lehman A, Rillig MC, Solé RV, Maestre FT. 2020. Global ecosystem thresholds driven by aridity. Science, 367(6479):787–790. DOI: 10.1126/science.aay5958

Alsedà L, Vidiella B, Solé R, Lázaro JT, Sardanyés J. 2020. Dynamics in a time-discrete food-chain model with strong pressure on preys. Communications in Nonlinear Science and Numerical Simulation, 84:1–26. DOI:10.1016/j.cnsns.2020.105187

Aguadé-Gorgorió G, Solé R. 2020. Tumour neoantigen heterogeneity thresholds provide a time window for combination immunotherapy. Journal of the Royal Society Interface, 17(171). DOI:10.1098/rsif.2020.0736.

Ollé-Vila A, Solé R. 2019. Cellular heterogeneity results from indirect effects under metabolic tradeoffs. Royal Society Open Science, 6(9). DOI:10.1098/rsos.190281

Vidiella B, Sardanyés J, Solé R. 2018. Exploiting delayed transitions to sustain semiarid ecosystems after catastrophic shifts. Journal of The Royal Society Interface, 15(143):20180083. DOI:10.1098/rsif.2018.0083

Valverde S, Piñero J, Corominas-Murtra B, Montoya J, Joppa L, Solé R. 2018. The architecture of mutualistic networks as an evolutionary spandrel. Nature Ecology & Evolution, 2(1):94-99. DOI:10.1038/s41559-017-0383-4

Solé R. 2018. Cooperation in an RNA world. Nature Ecology & Evolution, 2(10):1527-1528. DOI:10.1038/s41559-018-0649-5

Solé R, Ollé-Vila A, Vidiella B, Duran-Nebreda S, Conde-Pueyo N. 2018. The road to synthetic multicellularity. Current Opinion in Systems Biology, 7:60-67. DOI:10.1016/j.coisb.2017.11.007

Seoane LF, Solé R V. 2018. Information theory, predictability and the emergence of complex life. Royal Society Open Science, 5(2):172221. DOI:10.1098/rsos.172221

Seoane LF, Solé R. 2018. The morphospace of language networks. Scientific Reports, 8(1):1-18. DOI:10.1038/s41598-018-28820-0

Corominas-Murtra B, Sànchez Fibla M, Valverde S, Solé R. 2018. Chromatic transitions in the emergence of syntax networks. Royal Society Open Science, 5(12):181286. DOI:10.1098/rsos.181286

Corominas-Murtra B, Seoane LF, Solé R. 2018. Zipf’s Law, unbounded complexity and open-ended evolution. Journal of The Royal Society Interface, 15(149):20180395. DOI:10.1098/rsif.2018.0395

Aguadé-Gorgorió G, Solé R. 2018. Adaptive dynamics of unstable cancer populations: The canonical equation. Evolutionary Applications, 11(8):1283-1292. DOI:10.1111/eva.12625

Valverde S. 2017. Breakdown of Modularity in Complex Networks. Frontiers in Physiology, 8:1-8. DOI:10.3389/fphys.2017.00497

Sardanyés J, Tomás Lázaro J, Guillamon A, Fontich E. 2017. Full analysis of small hypercycles with short-circuits in prebiotic evolution. Physica D: Nonlinear Phenomena, 347:90-108. DOI:10.1016/j.physd.2016.12.004

Sardanyés J, Martínez R, Simó C, Solé R. 2017. Abrupt transitions to tumor extinction: a phenotypic quasispecies model. Journal of Mathematical Biology, 74(7):1589-1609. DOI:10.1007/s00285-016-1062-9

Maestre FT, Solé R, Singh BK. 2017. Microbial biotechnology as a tool to restore degraded drylands. Microbial Biotechnology, 10(5):1250-1253. DOI:10.1111/1751-7915.12832

Macia J, Vidiella B, Solé R V. 2017. Synthetic associative learning in engineered multicellular consortia. Journal of The Royal Society Interface, 14(129):20170158. DOI:10.1098/rsif.2017.0158

Gaviria AM, Franco J, Rico G, Muntané G, Sáez C, Sánchez-Gistau V, de Pablo J, Vilella E. 2017. Noninterventional, Naturalistic, Retrospective Study to Describe Prescription Patterns of Long-Acting Injectable Antipsychotics and the Impact of Introducing a New Atypical Antipsychotic in the Spanish Province of Tarragona Catchment Area. The Primary Care Companion For CNS Disorders, 19(02):1-4. DOI:10.4088/PCC.16m02044

Castillo V, Lázaro JT, Sardanyés J. 2017. Dynamics and bifurcations in a simple quasispecies model of tumorigenesis. Computational and Applied Mathematics, 36(1):415-431. DOI:10.1007/s40314-015-0234-3

Amor DR, Montañez R, Duran-Nebreda S, Solé R. 2017. Spatial dynamics of synthetic microbial mutualists and their parasites. PLoS computational biology, 13(8):e1005689. DOI:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1005689

Aguilar D, Pinart M, Koppelman GH, Saeys Y, Nawijn MC, Postma DS, Akdis M, Auffray C, Ballereau S, Benet M, García-Aymerich J, González JR, Guerra S, Keil T, Kogevinas M, Lambrecht B, Lemonnier N, Melen E, Sunyer J, Valenta R, Valverde S, Wickman M, Bousquet J, Oliva B, Antó JM. 2017. Computational analysis of multimorbidity between asthma, eczema and rhinitis. PLoS ONE, 12(6):1-26. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0179125

Willemsen A, Zwart MP, Higueras P, Sardanyés J, Elena SF. 2016. Predicting the stability of homologous gene duplications in a plant RNA virus. Genome Biology and Evolution, 8(9):3065-3082. DOI:10.1093/gbe/evw219

Valverde S. 2016. Major transitions in information technology. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 371(1701). DOI:10.1098/rstb.2015.0450

Urrios A, Macia J, Manzoni R, Conde N, Bonforti A, de Nadal E, Posas F, Solé R. 2016. A Synthetic Multicellular Memory Device. ACS Synthetic Biology, 5(8):862-873. DOI:10.1021/acssynbio.5b00252

Solé R, Amor DR, Valverde S. 2016. On singularities and black holes in combination-driven models of technological innovation networks. PLoS ONE, 11(1):1-13. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0146180

Solé R, Amor DR, Duran-Nebreda S, Conde-Pueyo N, Carbonell-Ballestero M, Montañez R. 2016. Synthetic collective intelligence. BioSystems, 148:47-61. DOI:10.1016/j.biosystems.2016.01.002

Solé R. 2016. The major synthetic evolutionary transitions. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 371(1701). DOI:10.1098/rstb.2016.0175

Solé R. 2016. Synthetic transitions: Towards a new synthesis. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 371(1701). DOI:10.1098/rstb.2015.0438

Ollé-Vila A, Duran-Nebreda S, Conde-Pueyo N, Montañez R, Solé R. 2016. A morphospace for synthetic organs and organoids: the possible and the actual. Integrative Biology (United Kingdom, 8(4):485-503. DOI:10.1039/c5ib00324e

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