The vision of our center is to develop an engineering discipline that will allow us to design and build cells and tissue with specific three-dimensional structures.
These structures will serve as living factories and building blocks for better and more sustainable products, materials, and devices to benefit humankind. Our mission is to launch a new approach to understanding and designing cells. In pursuit of this mission, we will revolutionize industry through novel cell-based approaches to produce chemicals and materials for medical, civil, and consumer applications; we will educate and train a diverse research and manufacturing workforce, and we will engage and inspire the public to embrace the promise of engineering cells to produce the materials and factories of tomorrow.
To pursue these goals we have developed plans for integrative research, education, broadening participation, and knowledge transfer. Three features characterize our approach as an engineering approach, distinct from traditional cell biology research: focus on a design-build-test cycle as opposed to the hypothesize-test-refine cycle that characterizes scientific research; use of rational and predictive models to drive design, which makes the design engineering as opposed to tinkering; and the fact that real-world applications are the driving force behind research activities. The focus on cellular structure is a distinctive feature of our research program that distinguishes our work from other efforts in synthetic biology, while our focus on engineering cells themselves, rather than on fabricating physical devices to interact with cells, sets us apart from traditional biomedical engineering.
Our educational activities are geared towards injecting an engineering mindset into biology education while at the same time training a new workforce with skills appropriate for engineering cells. Knowledge transfer activities are organized around the concept of learning from industry while moving our ideas into the real world through partnerships and startups. We are implementing concrete strategies for increasing diversity of participation in all three activity areas (research, education, and knowledge transfer).