Engineering Biology & Materials Science
Industrial Biotechnology Challenge:

Scalable production of novel and existing products that are more sustainable and economically- and environmentally-friendly.

Biocomputers and cells and biosystems that interface, or function like, electronics.

  • Technical Achievement: Enable selective ion channel (e.g., K+) activation in response to gene circuit initiation.
  • Technical Achievement: Enable stronger cell-electronics interfaces through novel cell surface proteins and polymers.
  • Technical Achievement: Enable swarm decision making, such as engineering large collections of cells that can apply an algorithm providing a statistical answer to a complex multivariable problem.
  • Technical Achievement: Create artificial retina by integrating patterned cells or artificial cells sensitive to light with multi-electrode arrays.

Electrically conductive biofilms for radiofrequency shielding/cloaking.

  • Technical Achievement: Enable synthesis of bio-wires such as cytochrome chains or ferritin chains which cross link between cells.
  • Technical Achievement: Engineer sensing inputs that instruct the limit of biofilm layer thickness needed for specific frequency range.
  • Technical Achievement: Enable persistence of materials with biological components in harsh or extreme environments.

Self-repairing materials for consumer products and the built environment.

  • Technical Achievement: Engineer materials that retain their biological function during use that are triggered only as needed.
  • Technical Achievement: Incorporate biocomponents to sense damage and repair through biofabrication of new material.
  • Technical Achievement: Engineer materials that can trigger reorganization or alter interaction networks to fix gaps or damage in the material.
  • Technical Achievement: Incorporation of microbes into construction materials (e.g., concrete, bricks) that produce mineral healing agents.

Stimuli-responsive adhesives.

  • Technical Achievement: Engineer controlled electrically- or magnetically-responsive materials where the physical properties are locked into the desired state.
  • Technical Achievement: Engineer adhesives utilizing protein phase transitions that are reversible above and below certain temperatures.
  • Technical Achievement: Develop biologically-derived adhesives that can bond together surfaces with different mechanical properties (e.g., soft-to-hard surface).
  • Technical Achievement: Exploit biology to engineer self-assembling adhesives that spontaneously construct graded interfaces.

Packaging and building materials with adjustable strengths.

  • Technical Achievement: Produce lightweight, high-tensile-strength materials built from engineered spider silk.1Whittall, D.R., Baker, K.V., Breitling, R., & Takano, E. (2020). Host systems for the production of recombinant spider silk. Trends in Biotechnology. View Publication


  1. Whittall, D.R., Baker, K.V., Breitling, R., & Takano, E. (2020). Host systems for the production of recombinant spider silk. Trends in Biotechnology.
Last updated: January 19, 2021 Back