Engineering Biology
Environmental Biotechnology Challenge:

Enable sustainable, more environmentally-friendly materials and infrastructure development.

Improved management of the built environment using bio-designed and -enabled tools and technologies, including replacement of non-natural infrastructure with engineered organisms.

Engineering Biology Objectives & Technical Achievements

Engineer and produce organisms to replace or augment energy-consuming infrastructure or reduce energy consumption.1For related reading, please see Further develop energy-saving processes with biology and Develop organismal bio-processes that enable the production of energy from (currently) atypical sources.

Engineering DNA Biomolecular Engineering Host Engineering Data Science

Enable tissue-specific gene expression in higher-order eukaryotes (such as in the twigs of deciduous trees or in needles of conifers).

Introduce luciferase and luciferin into a variety of trees (such as to create glowing plants and trees for natural, carbon-negative lighting in urban areas).

Produce and advance engineered enzymes and other biomolecules for energy-consuming processes.

Enable incorporation of photosynthetic pathways into infrastructure biomaterials (such as for the production of carbon-negative bio-concrete).

Engineer tree branches and leaves to maximize canopy area to increase summer shading.

Use modeling to design a tree with the optimum canopy area to increase summer shading.

Ability to design low-load (cyclic) bioluminescence pathways that generate luciferin/luciferase at pre-specified times and/or in response to external stimuli.

Engagement Example

By leveraging engineered enzymes during biofuel fermentation, byproducts of this process can be re-used to create more environmentally-friendly construction materials. See for this example in action.


  1. For related reading, please see Further develop energy-saving processes with biology and Develop organismal bio-processes that enable the production of energy from (currently) atypical sources.
Last updated: June 19, 2019 Back