2016 Workshop on Engineering Living Systems

Wednesday, August 3, 2016 - 9:00am to Thursday, August 4, 2016 - 2:00pm
Q Center, Illinois

Aug. 3-4, 2016

The 1st International Workshop on Engineering Living Systems convened a cadre of 60 forward-looking thought-leaders across a variety of fields including: industry, stem cell biology, developmental biology, synthetic biology, tissue chip engineering, robotics, and ethics. The Workshop's primary goal was the exploration of the ethical and research implications that arise from the EBICS mission to develop the capability to design, engineer, and produce complex integrated cellular systems or "biological machines" that solve real-world problems in health, security, and the environment.

Critical to the successful design of such engineered cellular systems is 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. Examples range from biological robots to organs-on-a-chip, and have broad applications across medicine, manufacturing, agriculture, and energy management, among other disciplines. Whether we achieve this through a "bottom-up" or a "top-down" approach, the basic cellular building blocks can all be derived from pluripotent sources.

In discussing the ethical and research implications of these complex biological interactions, the emergent behaviors they produce, and ultimately, the creation of biological machines engineered to perform specific, targeted functions, Workshop participants considered the following ideas for future work in this area:

  • A position paper on Engineered Living Systems for wide dissemination
  • A proposal for a new EFRI call on:
    • Advanced manufacturing processes for multicellular machines
    • Reduced functionality cells for ELSs
  • New collaborations and potential partnerships
  • Avenues for continuing EBICS activities
  • Transitioning to a regular meeting (e.g. Gordon Research Conference)
  • Possibility for a new journal
  • Recruiting EBICS Distinguished Visiting Scholars
  • Forging new international collaborations (through a virtual center)
  • Providing trainees a broader perspective of EBICS-centric activities worldwide

The next Workshop on Engineering Living Systems will tentatively assemble in 2018.