Cells are often called the “building blocks of life” as they are the basic unit of living organisms. The need for innovative solutions for current and future healthcare is nearly boundless. Many of these breakthroughs will result by having a basic understanding at the cellular level, where an isolated cell or collection of cells (e.g., tissue) responds to internal and/or external cues from its surrounding environment. In order to achieve this level of understanding, several components need to coalesce together. For instance, novel biomaterials may be needed to the design and synthesize probes to measure a biological/physiological response. Moreover, novel fabrication techniques and bio-compatible devices may need to be built in order to measure with enough sensitivity and spatial/temporal resolution to have benefit for a particular healthcare need (e.g., for early detection of diseases). The motivation and challenge behind this symposium is to bring together thought leaders in this still expanding field to highlight advances made in their respective expertise that have “cells” as a common thread throughout the program. Having this common “currency” for foundational understanding, while at the same time projecting this knowledge forward to address healthcare needs, provide the critical linkages for potential breakthroughs for this field and improved engagement for the symposium participants.