‘The future of cell research’ examines new directions and how they might evolve. Some involve the understanding of how cellular behaviour can change so dramatically after subtle changes at the level of genes and proteins. Other approaches use cells to cure a disease, for extraction of metals, the breakdown of petroleum products, or to harness light to produce biofuels. Other efforts are to create synthetic life and understand the biology behind ageing. New approaches are needed to investigate ‘systems biology’ or ‘biocomplexity’, where the challenge is to understand the collective interactions of multiple molecular processes, not only within the cell itself, but also at the tissue, organ, and organism level.