2018 MRS Fall Meeting Home

Symposium GI03—Synthetic Biology—An Accelerator of Materials Research and Development

Synthetic biology is the application of engineering principles to biology for the design and reprogramming of cellular systems. It draws upon the fields of biology, chemistry, computer science and engineering to enable the transformation of cellular processes into parts, circuits and pathways that can be designed, built and tested.  With this level of design and control over biological systems, synthetic biology provides numerous opportunities for the acceleration of materials research and development.  For example, it can be applied to the synthesis and testing of new molecules that cannot be produced by traditional chemical synthesis routes or whose synthesis is cost-prohibitive or not environmentally friendly (e.g., organic monomers with defined stereochemistry or R groups). By controlling the timing of synthesis of various molecular components, it can enable engineering of hierarchically assembled materials such as structural composites and metamaterials. Through a combination of cell types and capabilities, synthetic biological systems can be used to create living, multifunctional materials, such as biofilms that secrete polymers and that respond to environmental cues to change materials properties on demand. The purpose of this Forum is to introduce the MRS Community to the potential of synthetic biology and its ability to transform and accelerate materials research. It will to provide a high-level overview of its capabilities and examples of recent successes by multidisciplinary teams. It will also explore obstacles to success and opportunities for engagement by the materials science community.

Topics will include:

  • Overview of synthetic biology and its potential to transform materials science
  • Examples of synthetic biology for chemical synthesis, hierarchical/template materials and engineered living materials
  • Linking biology, engineering and materials science through multidisciplinary teams to accelerate the design-build-test cycle for materials
  • Current risks, obstacles and limitations of using synthetic biology for materials synthesis and discovery (and subsequent identification of opportunities for engagement), including: high throughput materials characterization, metrology, use of cell free synthetic systems, developing business cases for materials produced biosynthetically

Invited Speakers:

  • Caroline Ajo-Franklin (Lawrence-Berkeley National Laboratory, USA)
  • Clementina Dellomonaco (DuPont, USA)
  • Sarah Glaven (Naval Research Laboratory, USA)
  • Maneesh Gupta (Air Force Research Laboratory, USA)
  • Jasmine Hershewe (Northwestern University, USA)
  • Louise Horsfall (University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom)
  • Geertje van Keulen (University of Swansea, United Kingdom)
  • Anne Meyer (Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands)
  • Milan Mrsich (Northwestern University, USA)
  • Bradley Olson (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA)
  • Ali Saeem (The Broad Institute, USA)

Symposium Organizers

Wendy Goodson
Air Force Research Laboratory

Michael Jewett
Northwestern University

Melissa Rhoads
Lockheed Martin Space Systems

Petra Oyston
Porton Down
United Kingdom

Keywords for Abstract Submission

Synthetic Biology