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Engineering Biology in Cambridge


The EngBio Forums feature prominent external speakers and excellent networking opportunities - a great opportunity to learn more about cutting edge synthetic and engineering biology.



Thank you for making our 2023 forum events a success. 2024 dates to be announced soon.


Monday 27 November 2023: Engineering Living Systems for Human Health and Wellbeing


Keynote Speakers:


Prof. Martin Fussenegger, ETH Zurich & University of Basel

Title: Toward A World of ElectroGenetics




With the advent of the internet of things, interconnected electronic devices are starting to dominate our daily lives and are reaching the control complexity of living systems, and yet work radically different: While human metabolism uses ion gradients across insulated membranes to simultaneously process slow analog chemical reactions and communicate information in multicellular systems via soluble or volatile molecular signals, electronic devices use multicore central processing units to control the flow of electrons through insulated metal wires with gigahertz frequency and communicate information across networks via wired or wireless connections. While analog biological systems and digital electronic devices efficiently work in their respective worlds there are no efficient interfaces between electronics and genetics. We will report our first attempts to design direct electro-genetic interfaces and our progress toward a world of ElectroGenetics and the internet of the body.

Bio: Martin Fussenegger is Professor of Biotechnology and Bioengineering at the Department of Biosystems Science and Engineering (D-BSSE) of the ETH Zurich in Basel as well as at the University of Basel. His research focuses on mammalian cell engineering, in particular on the assembly of synthetic gene circuits that process complex control and closed-loop expression logic as well as on the production of theranostic designer cell implants that interface with host metabolism to correct prominent metabolic disorders. Martin Fussenegger graduated with Werner Arber at the Biocenter of the University of Basel (1992), obtained his Ph.D. in Medical Microbiology (1994) at the Max Planck Institute of Biology (Tübingen, Germany) and continued his postdoctoral studies on host-pathogen interactions at the Max Planck Institute of Infection Biology (Berlin, 1995). He then joined the ETH Institute of Biotechnology (1996), where he received his habilitation in 2000, and became Swiss National Science Foundation Professor of Molecular Biotechnology in 2002, prior to being awarded a Chair in Biotechnology and Bioengineering at the ETH Institute for Chemical and Bioengineering in 2004. On a presidential mission, he moved to Basel in 2008 to build up the D-BSSE, the Department of Biosystems Science and Engineering of the ETH Zurich. Martin Fussenegger received the Gaden Award, the Merck Cell Culture Engineering Award, the Medal of the European Society for Animal Cell Technology (ESACT), the Gutenberg Chair Excellence Award, the James E. Bailey Award and two consecutive Advanced Grant Awards of the European Research Council. He is an expert panel member of the Swiss Innovation Agency (Innosuisse) and the Swiss Agency for Therapeutic Products (Swissmedic). Martin Fussenegger is a member of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE), the Swiss Academy of Engineering Sciences (SATW), the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO), the Academia Europaea and an international member of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) of the United States of America.


Prof. Julius B. Lucks, Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Center for Synthetic Biology, Northwestern University

Title: What is in our water? A journey from basic research to societal scale synthetic biology.



Over two billion people lack access to sufficient clean water for their basic needs. A central challenge in this global water crisis is a lack of information on water quality. While we cannot often see or taste water contaminants, microbes can, creating a profound opportunity to partner with nature to create scalable technologies that could democratize access to water quality information. In this talk I will present an ongoing journey that that started with a basic biology research question – how do cells sense and ‘process’ information – and is leading to the development of synthetic biology water quality monitoring technologies that are as simple to use as an at-home COVID test.

Bio: Julius B. Lucks is Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering and Co-Director of the Center for Synthetic Biology at Northwestern University. Lucks received his PhD in chemical physics from Harvard University as a Hertz Fellow, and transitioned to synthetic biology as a Miller Fellow at UC Berkeley. He is a leader in RNA research and synthetic biology, focusing on developing technologies that tackle global challenges, most recently in the area of global water insecurity. Professor Lucks has been recognized with a number of awards including a DARPA Young Faculty Award, an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Research Fellowship, an ONR Young Investigator Award, an NIH New Innovator Award, an NSF CAREER award, the ACS Synthetic Biology Young Investigator Award, a Camille-Dreyfus Teacher Scholar Award, a finalist for the Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists, named to the college of fellows in the American Institute of Medical and Biomedical Engineers, and most recently awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in biology. He also leads the first NSF graduate training program in synthetic biology, is a founding member of the Engineering Biology Research Consortium, and co-founded the Cold Spring Harbor Synthetic Biology Summer Course. He is also a co-founder of Stemloop, Inc. which aims to use cell free biosensing technology to empower people with information about the health of themselves and their environment.