Engineering Biology & Materials Science


Processing considers the engineering of biology to conduct “unit operations” to build or destroy materials through polymerization and degradation, templating, patterning, and printing.


The Processing technical theme considers advancements in engineering of biology to conduct “unit operations” to build or destroy materials through polymerization and degradation, templating, patterning, and printing. This includes engineering the biological extrusion or secretion of materials, material deposition, and self-assembly and -disassembly. Processing also includes engineering biology-based technologies, tools and systems (e.g., cell-free systems) to manufacture, recover, and purify materials. Includes engineering biological materials to function in non-natural environments and extreme conditions.

Advancements in processing of materials with, or directed by, biocomponents can enable new characteristics and functionalities. Depicted here, synthetic polymers with differing dimensionality are sorted and printed in a manner that localizes cells on a surface. The complex patterning of bioactive material is enabled by polymers that provide protection through a printing process. Processing of materials systems (e.g., extracellular matrix mimetics) in a manner that can distinguish and sort various components of the system for precise deposition into patterns provides a degree of control and reproducibility not available in natural systems.

Processing Breakthrough Capabilities

Enable secretion of monomers or polymers without destruction of cells.

Ability to control self-assembly and disassembly of biomolecule-based or -embedded materials.

Ability to control molecular and macromolecular deposition, patterning, and remodelling on biotic and abiotic surfaces.

Enable biomolecule and cellular patterning and printing under diverse conditions.

Engineer cells to produce materials in environments optimal for the ex vivo material.

Enable robust processing of materials using cell-free systems.

Enable selective component and material degradation through engineering biology.

Industrial infrastructure and accelerated downstream processing of biocomponent-containing materials.


  1. Jia Liu, J., Kim, Y.S., Richardson, C.E., Tom, A., Ramakrishnan, C., Birey, F., Katsumata, T., Chen, S., Wang, C., Wang, X., Joubert, L., Jiang, Y,, Wang, H., Fenno, L.E., Tok, J.B.H., Pașca, S.P., Shen, K., Bao, Z., & Deisseroth, K. (2020). Genetically targeted chemical assembly of functional materials in living cells, tissues, and animals. Science, 367(6484), 1372-1376.
  2. Deepankumar, K., Shon, M., Nadarajan, S.P., Shin, G., Mathew, S., Ayyadurai, N., Kim, B., Choi, S., Lee, S., & Yun, H. (2014). Enhancing thermostability and organic solvent tolerance of ω‐transaminase through global incorporation of fluorotyrosine. Advanced Synthesis & Catalysis, 356(5), 993-998.
  3. Panganiban, B., Qiao, B., Jiang, T., DelRe, C., Obadia, M.M., Nguyen, T.D., Smith, A.A.A., Hall, A., Sit, I., Crosby, M.G., Dennis, P.B., Drockenmuller, E., Olvera de la Cruz, M., & Xu, Ting. (2018). Random heteropolymers preserve protein function in foreign environments. Science, 359(6381), 1239-1243.
Last updated: January 19, 2021