During the 20th century, we witnessed the discovery of the structure of the DNA, the elucidation of the genetic code, and the birth of biotechnology. At the beginning of the 21st century, biologists demonstrated that cells could be reprogrammed into stem cells, jump-starting the field of induced pluripotent stem cells. Also new fields emerged like synthetic biology and systems biology. This combination of cell state manipulation, gene editing, and genome-wide analysis opens unprecedented possibilities in disease modeling, drug discovery, regenerative medicine, and synthetic biology. However, significant gaps in knowledge and technological limitations need to be overcome before the full potential of cellular engineering can benefit society. Overcoming such limitations necessitates the integration of several disciplines, Medicine, Engineering, and the Physical Sciences. Indeed, solutions will arise from the integration of deep biological knowledge, development of novel tools and engineered systems, and computational analyses based on new statistical and mathematical theories.
Institute researchers have pioneered novel cell differentiation protocols, engineered tools and delivery vectors for single cell access and analysis, built complex cellular systems, and developed algorithms for identification of intra- and inter-cell regulatory networks. Still much more is needed, for example, novel tools and engineered systems for hands-free non-viral efficient delivery of biomolecules into cells, non-destructive temporal analysis of cell function (including biochemical, electrical, and mechanical), and revolutionary systems analysis that will advance our understanding of cell states such that efficient and robust cell phenotype control will become a reality.
The institute is building an innovation ecosystem to foster discovery, innovation, and technology translation to advance this vision. In particular, we are working on a number of specific activities:
Engaging passionate and talented people
Develop new interdisciplinary programs to train the next generation of graduate students and postdocs
Reach out to foundations, incubators, and government organizations to be part of this initiative
Promoting interdisciplinary research
Award seed grants to promote collaborations on disruptive ideas
Support development of small group of researchers as well as center proposals
Establishing new infrastructure
Built a new core facility for induced pluripotent stem cells in the Evanston campus
Augment capabilities for design and fabrication of novel engineered systems
Cellular engineering technologies are poised to produce paradigm shifts in health, synthetic biology, materials, energy, and the environment.
If you share our enthusiasm and would like to contribute, contact us.
Horacio D. Espinosa, Director
Jack Kessler, Co-Director