Michael Levin leads new Allen Discovery Center at Tufts University, with $30 million in funding, aiming to understand the "morphogenic code"

Published: March 23, 2016

March 23, 2016 - The Allen Discovery Center at Tufts University, led by EBICS faculty Michael Levin, is one of only two new centers funded by the Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group,a $100 million initiative to back risky, cutting-edge science that more conventional funders might avoid. The Center at Tufts will receive about $30 million over eight years towards understanding the "morphogenic code," the bioelectric signals inside organisms that choreograph networks of cells into functional tissues and organs. Levin has found that electric fields and electric signaling between cells help give tissues, organs, and other body parts (like arms) their shapes. That's called an "emergent'' phenomenon because it cannot be predicted from genes and molecules or the other mainstays of reductionist biology. Dr. Thomas Skalak, head of EBICS External Advisory Committee (EAC), is the founding executive director of the Frontiers Group.


Jasmin Imran Alsous wins Autodesk Art and Biology award

Published: March 20, 2016

March 20, 2016 - Jasmin Imran Alsous, EBICS trainee and 4th year Ph.D. candidate in Stanislav Shvartsman Lab at Princeton, won the Autodesk Art and Biology Award at the Conference onVizualizing of Biological Data (VIBZI), with her entry "Picasso's Bulls and Drosophila's Eggs." Her winning entry compares an image sequence of cells that make up a Drosophila germ line cyst, a conserved structure from fruit flies to mammals that gives rise to eggs or sperm, to the progression of Picasso's bull drawings, in which a realistic picture transforms into a famous stick figure abstraction. The Autodesk award is for the most popular VIZBI Art and Biology submission, and the winner receives a three-year subscription to Autodesk Maya, a 3D animation, modeling, simulation, and rendering software. 

BioBots in motion featured in NSF's Science Nation

Published: March 7, 2016

UIUC members of the EBICS biobots working group, engineered 8-10 mm biobots that mimic the muscle-tendon-bone complex, resulting in inchworm-like movement. 

They can be controlled with electrical or optical signals and use muscle tissue for power. Currently, researchers are focused on biobots that mimic the body, but, perhaps one day, biological machines could replace animals for drug testing, or be used to detect and neutralize toxins in the environment, or even sequester carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere.

EBICS Distinguished Lecture: Dr. Farren Isaacs at Georgia Tech

Published: March 3, 2016

Farren Isaacs, Assistant Professor of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology and Systems Biology at Yale University, spoke about genomic engineering to 85 attendees across the GT, UIUC, and MIT communities. His presentation, "Programming Genomes to Expand Life's Functional Repertoire" covered: 

  • One application of MAGE (multiplex automated genome engineering) to generate combinatorial genomic variants from a complex pool of synthetic DNA to diversify multiple genes for biosynthetic pathway optimization. 
  • The integration of MAGE and CAGE (conjugative assembly genome engineering) to construct GROs (Genomically Recoded Organisms), replacing all 321 UAG stop codons with the synonymous UAA stop codon in E. coli.
  • Engineering the GRO to depend on synthetic amino acids aimed at construction of safe GMOs unable to grow in the wild.


Kong Lab engineering cell matrix discovery promises innovation for fundamental applied studies on biological cells

Published: February 12, 2016

Paper by EBICS trainees Eunkyung Ko (UIUC) and Ellen Qin (UIUC), EBICS faculty Hyunjoon Kong (UIUC), et al. was published in Chemical Communications. Their research demonstrates that a hydrogel coupled with integrin-binding deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) tethered with pre-defined rupture forces can modulate cell adhesion, differentiation, and secretion activities due to the changes in the number and, likely, force of cells adhered to a gel. Such innovative cell-matrix interface engineering would be broadly useful for a series of materials used for fundamental and applied studies on biological cells.

Levin Lab discovery suggests role for bioelectric signaling in channelopathies of embryogenesis

Published: February 10, 2016

Paper by EBICS faculty Michael Levin (Tufts), EBICS trainee Sebastien Uzel (MIT), et al. was published in The Journal of Physiology. Their research shows the bioelectric mechanism by which the rare genetic disorder Andersen-Tawil Syndrome (ATS) causes facial deformities, a finding that could lead to preventative measures and treatments from disorders ranging from birth defects to cancer.

Robert Nerem and Steven Stice Participate in 2015 World Stem Cell Summit as Leadership Co-Chair Members

Published: December 16, 2015

More than 1,200 attendees from 40+ countries attended the 2015 World Stem Cell Summit & RegMed Capital Conference, which took place from December 9 - 12, 2015. Prominent industry leaders, scientists, clinicians, venture capitalists, angel investors, philanthropists, regulators, policymakers, patient advocates, economic development officers, and experts in law and ethics join together to advance the field.

For 11 years, the Genetics Policy Institute (GPI) has honored the stem cell and regenerative medicine community's top innovators, leaders, and champions. Robert Nerem received the 2015 Stem Cell Action Leadership Award. 


Steven Stice moderated one of the innovation showcase sessions, "The Power of Gene Editing - Implications for the Future of Medicine." The panel discussed new developments in gene editing, and how gene editing in combination with human cells will have significant positive impact on advancements in relevant models and stem cell based assays.


Todd McDevitt was also featured as a speaker for the innovation session "Breakthroughs in Regenerative Engineering and Bioprocessing." The panel highlighted recent scientific breakthroughs and the implications of associated FDA requirements.


Natasha Arora and Marianna Sofman Awarded 2nd Place at the 2015 BioMAN Summit Poster Competition

Published: November 20, 2015

EBICS trainees Natasha Arora and Marianna Sofman won 2nd place at the 2015 BioMAN Summit Poster Competition hosted by MIT's Center for Biomedical Innovation. Their poster, entitled "Development of a customizable microwell array for controlled study of heterogeneous cell populations," addressed the drawbacks of current micropatterning techniques using PDMS molds and showcased their development of a patterned hydrogel microwell array that was UV cured to a functionalized glass coverslip via a photomask. This hydrogel microwell platform holds great potential for culturing, manipulating, and testing complex heterogenous populations in a controlled setting.

The 2015 BioMAN Summit took place November 18-19, 2015, and brought together thought leaders from industry, academia and government for a series of presentations and panel discussions that explored the manufacturing challenges of cell and gene therapy products, examined the science and enabling technology for product safety, and discussed the critical needs for sustainable commercial manufacturing.

Congratulations Natasha and Marianna!


Douglas White, Melissa Kemp, Todd McDevitt, Hang Lu, et al. Publication: "Quantitative Multivariate Analysis of Dynamic Multicellular Morphogenic Trajectories"

Published: August 31, 2015

EBICS trainee, Douglas White, was the lead author of a research paper entitled, "Quantitative multivariate analysis of dynamic multicellular morphogenic trajectories," published summer 2015 in the journal Integrative Biology. The interdisciplinary team contributing to the paper's topic, the development of an innovative, portable pattern recognition pipeline, the first of its kind, also includes Douglas's co-advisors Melissa Kemp and Todd McDevitt, as well as Hang Lu. 

Interrogating fundamental cell biology principles that govern tissue morphogenesis is critical to better understanding of developmental biology and engineering novel multicellular systems. The challenges have been addressed by developing a portable pattern recognition pipeline consisting of: the conversion of cellular images into networks, extraction of novel features via network analysis, and generation of morphogenic trajectories. This novel methodology enabled the quantitative description of morphogenic pattern trajectories that could be compared across diverse systems. Moreover, this method identified novel spatio-temporal features associated with different stages of embryo gastrulation, and elucidated a complex paracrine mechanism capable of explaining spatiotemporal pattern kinetic differences in ESC aggregates of different sizes. 

Their work in this publication lays the foundation for the conception of a new computational task force at EBICS.

Congratulations Douglas, Melissa, Todd, and Hang!

REU Student Presents at CUWiP in January 2015

Published: February 18, 2015

The annual Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics (CUWiP), sponsored by the American Physical Society, aims to promote awareness of the issues that women face while pursuing a career in physics, as well as to encourage undergraduate majors to continue on in the study of physics. This year’s talks ranged from condensed matter physics research to issues facing female scientists, with an emphasis placed on the path from undergraduate studies to a career in research throughout all of the talks. The conference lasted three days, culminating in a poster session.

The conference was equal parts bonding with fellow undergraduates, meeting amazing female physicists and role models, learning about the fascinating research they conduct, and hearing about the challenges they and we do and will face. The faculty speakers were not only inspiring but also gave incredibly useful practical advice for day-to-day life. The sense of camaraderie and shared experience between students despite diversity was very exciting. The conference reinforced her ambition of pursuing a career in science and increased a motivation to take concrete steps towards her goals. With the knowledge of how gender bias manifests in individuals and affects women in STEM and with the connections made at the CUWiP conference, Isabel feels more prepared to take on challenges and succeed academically and in her career!

REU Student Presents at ABRCMS November 2014 Annual Conference

Published: January 25, 2015

Every year ABRCMS draws thousands of undergraduate students from underrepresented minorities in the biomedical research area nationwide. This conference is an amazing opportunity to learn about graduate school and research opportunities and to be able to present your research and learn what others are doing. This year, former REU Alum, Andre Perez-Orozco presented research he did over the summer at MIT under direction of Dr. Ron Weiss in the Synthetic Biology Center. His research dealt with induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), which have tremendous potential for regenerative medicine. He, along with a postdoctoral fellow and a graduate student were in charge of differentiating stem cells into neurons and supportive cells with minimal guidance or external cues. These methods can be used as a tool for better understanding of how neural circuits work, and they could also be crucial to understanding traumatic brain injuries, diseases, and improving brain injury and disease treatment.

EBICS REU Student Presents at BMES Annual Meeting October 2014

Published: January 19, 2015

Shadi Ahmadmehrabi attended the annual BMES Annual Meeting in October 2014. There were a lot of informative talks about the latest in biomedical/bioengineering research. Shadi presented a poster on creating biomimetic neighbors for enhanced viability in 3D beta cell culture using microfluidics and layer-by-layer assembly. She learned a lot about microfluidic devices and hopes to apply this knowledge in her research at school. 

“Swim bot” in UIUC News

Published: November 15, 2014

"Swim bot” on National Science Foundation

Published: November 15, 2014

"Mapping The Body” in Newsweek

Published: October 1, 2014