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Workshop on Multi-Cellular Engineered Living Systems (M-CELS)


  • Q Center 1405 North 5th Avenue St. Charles, IL, 60174 United States (map)

ARMI | BioFabUSA will be speaking at the Workshop on Multi-Cellular Engineered Living Systems (M-CELS).

ARMI Speakers will include:

Tom Bollenbach, Chief Technical Officer


One of the grand challenges facing our scientific community is to develop the capability to design, engineer and produce complex, multi-cellular engineered living systems (M-CELS).  These systems might arise from guided differentiation of a cluster of pluripotent cells, drawing upon the capabilities to apply chemical, physical, or electrical cues to direct co-differentiation, as well as the intrinsic, natural capabilities of cell populations to produce functional interactions through emergence. Or they can be ‘engineered’, by first producing a high-level conceptual design, leading to the specification of components consisting of cell clusters, each comprised of phenotypically distinct cell types. The clusters might be capable of sensing, actuation and information processing that could be effectively combined to create functional machines. The basic building blocks, the cells, can all be derived from pluripotent sources.

Both technical and ethical capacity will be critical for the successful design of such engineered cellular systems. On the technical side, design requires a fundamental understanding of the interactions between cells and their environment, their control by biochemical and mechanical cues, and the coordinated behavior of functional cell clusters.  But these new understandings could ultimately be used in societal contexts, implicating a need for socioethical reflection and responsible engineering practice. Example technologies range from biological robots to organs-on-a-chip, with applications in medicine, manufacturing, agriculture, energy management, and others. The primary goal of this meeting is to bring together a multidisciplinary group of forward-looking researchers seeking to explore these complex biological interactions and the emergent behaviors they produce, with the goal of creating responsibly engineered biological machines with specific functions

The bold vision behind M-CELS research is that we will soon acquire the capability to design and create complex biological systems that can perform a variety of useful tasks, moving beyond medical applications to develop applications in the energy, agriculture and home security sectors.  Our immediate objective is to clearly define that vision, to foster a collective capacity for ethical deliberation, and to chart a course that will enable us to realize it within the next decade.