Biomanufacturing

Biomanufacturing involves the use of biological systems to produce known or new materials, including biologics (e.g., therapeutic proteins and polysaccharides), cells (e.g., stem cells and their derived progeny), biomaterials, and fuels and chemicals from renewable resources. In addition, biomanufacturing involves the efficient scale-up of synthetic biology approaches to design novel commercially-relevant and/or bioactive molecules. We are focused on four areas of biomanufacturing with a goal of exploiting new biosynthetic and cellular systems to generate therapeutically-relevant materials.

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Cell and Biomolecular Engineering for New Therapeutic Outcomes

We have identified and engineered cell-lytic enzymes with tailored activity against hospital-acquired infections (MRSA), food-borne illnesses (Listeria), and Bacillus spores. Such activity provides a safe and potentially broadly applicable route to eliminating toxic compounds and pathogenic microorganisms from common surfaces. We have also developed a genetically encoded protein-based nanoparticle-generating system for remote regulation of gene expression by low-frequency radio waves (RFs) or a magnetic field. In mice with viral expression of these genetically encoded components, remote stimulation of insulin transgene expression with RF or a magnet lowers blood glucose. This robust, repeatable method for remote regulation in vivo may ultimately have applications in basic science, technology and therapeutics. In the area of drug discovery and development, we have developed a cadre of high-throughput tools to accelerate compound synthesis and screening. We are now expanding beyond experimental approaches by introducing cognitive computing tools to develop predictive models for drug toxicity and efficacy.

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Nanobiotechnology

We are enabling the efficient and selective interaction of biomolecules with synthetic nanoscale building blocks to generate functional assemblies. Specifically, we are focused on the preparation, fundamental understanding, and application of biomolecule-nanoparticle composite materials with tailored structure and function. These resulting functional hybrid materials that integrate biotic and abiotic components can be used to generate “smart materials” that can sense, assemble, clean, and heal.

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