Despite the considerable advances in molecular biology over the past several decades, the nature of the physical–chemical process by which inanimate matter become transformed into simplest life remains elusive. In this review, we describe recent advances in a relatively new area of chemistry, systems chemistry, which attempts to uncover the physical–chemical principles underlying that remarkable transformation. A significant development has been the discovery that within the space of chemical potentiality there exists a largely unexplored kinetic domain which could be termed dynamic kinetic chemistry. Our analysis suggests that all biological systems and associated sub-systems belong to this distinct domain, thereby facilitating the placement of biological systems within a coherent physical/chemical framework. That discovery offers new insights into the origin of life process, as well as opening the door toward the preparation of active materials able to self-heal, adapt to environmental changes, even communicate, mimicking what transpires routinely in the biological world. The road to simplest proto-life appears to be opening up.

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