D.I.C. Wang Award Lecture | AIChE

This award has been established by the Society for Biological Engineering.

The award lecture will be presented to a distinguished biochemical engineer and biotechnologist by the Biochemical Technology Division of the American Chemical Society and by the Food, Pharmaceuticals and Bioengineering Division of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and the Society of Biological Engineering.

Supported by the AIChE Foundation

We are pleased to announce that William E. Bentley, Robert E. Fischell Distinguished Chair of Engineering, Director of the Robert E. Fischell Institute for Biomedical Devices, Director, Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute and Professor, Institute for Bioscience and Biotechnology Research, Fischell Department of Bioengineering, University of Maryland  will deliver the 2021 Lecture.

Exploiting Redox for Connecting Biology to Electronics – Controlling Behavior via Electrogenetics

The Internet of Things has been a truly transformative reality - of great successes, opportunities and challenges. Big data and electronic information transfer, however, typically stops at the interface with biology, it’s aqueous nature largely devoid of free electron transfer. By recognizing that biological redox active molecules are a biological equivalent of an electron-carrying wire, we have developed biological surrogates for electronic devices, including a biological redox capacitor that enable bi-directional “electron” flow. We have also turned to synthetic biology to provide a means to sample, interpret and report on biological information contained in molecular communications circuitry.  We have based much of our work on the cell-cell molecular communication system known as bacterial quorum sensing, which mediates the phenotypic transition from single cells to a collective. That is, we and many others have participated in elucidating the molecular and genetic regulation of bacterial quorum sensing (QS) and have “rewired” its regulatory components so as to enable “eavesdropping” on bacterial crosstalk. We have also developed synthetic genetic circuits that exploit intracellular redox “nodes” to enable electronic actuation of gene expression in QS and other systems. Using simple reconstructions, one can apply voltage on an electrode and directly actuate genetic responses and associated phenotypes. We have turned to information theory to help guide genetic multiplexing for maximum information transfer. We have exploited these circuits to develop systems that autonomously control subpopulations within bacterial co-cultures. This presentation will introduce the concepts of molecular communication that are enabled by integrating relatively simple concepts in synthetic biology with biofabrication. Our presentation will show how engineered cells represent a versatile means for mediating the molecular “signatures” commonly found in complex environments, or in other words, they are conveyors of molecular communication.