Over the past decade, research on the development of multi-cellular engineered living systems has produced technologies and capabilities that are now positioned to facilitate a fundamental understanding of disease processes and can help to identify innovative therapeutic strategies. Globally, while many labs are engaged in the development of new and more sophisticated organ models for drug discovery and screening, there is an urgent need to disrupt the way drugs are currently developed. Our vision is to humanize drug development based on a new approach that integrates microphysiological system models of disease and enhanced model control/interrogation, with modern systems biology and systems immunology. This is the focus of Living Machines, one of five threads in the New Engineering Education Transformation (NEET) program to reimagine engineering education at MIT in which sophomores, juniors and seniors, under the guidance of faculty mentors and instructors, learn, discover, build and engineer living systems for broad applications in biotechnology and medical devices. This webinar will share the perspectives of 3 MIT faculty, their research capabilities and interests in which NEET students can participate, and that of several NEET students and what they can or hope to achieve.
MIT Corporate Relations/Industrial Liaison Program
Sheryl Greenberg initiates and promotes the interactions and development of relationships between academic and industrial entities to facilitate the transfer of new ideas and technologies between MIT and companies, and has created numerous successful partnerships. By understanding the business, technology, and commercial problems within a company, and understanding the technologies and expertise of MIT researchers, Greenberg identifies appropriate resources and expertise to foster new technology applications and collaborative opportunities.
Prior to MIT, Greenberg created and directed the Office of Technology Transfer at Brandeis University. In the process of managing intellectual property protection, marketing, and licensing, she has promoted the successful commercialization of technologies as diverse as new chemicals and manufacturing, biotechnology, food compositions, software, and medical devices. She facilitated the founding and funding of new companies, as well as creating a profitable technology transfer program. She also facilitated the patenting, marketing, and licensing of Massachusetts General Hospital technologies. In addition to her cellular, biochemical, and genetic research experience in academic and corporate environments, she has also created intellectual property for medical uses. Greenberg has been an independent intellectual property and business development consultant, is a U.S. Patent Agent, and has previously served the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation as Co-Chair of the Islet Research Program Advisory Committee and grant reviewer. She currently also mentors startup companies and facilitates partnering them with large life science and healthcare companies.
Professor of Biological Engineering
Director, MIT Synthetic Biology Center
MIT Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
Ron Weiss's research (formerly based at Pinceton University) focuses on programming new cellular behaviors by designing and embedding synthetic gene networks that perform desired functions in single cells and multi-cellular environments. We genetically engineer a variety of cell types including bacteria, yeast, and mammalian stem cells. This nascent field of Synthetic Biology holds promise for a wide range of applications such as programmed tissue engineering, environmental biosensing and effecting, biomaterial fabrication, and an improved understanding of naturally occuring biological processes.
Synthetic biology -- Construction and analysis of synthetic gene networks. Use of computer engineering principles of abstraction, composition, and interface specifications to program cells with sensors and actuators precisely controlled by analog and digital logic circuitry. Emphasis on establishing the engineering foundation for synthetic biology and the pursuit of novel applications enabled by the technology (e.g. programmed tissue engineering, diabetes, engineered neuronal circuits).
Mammalian synthetic biology has recently emerged as a field that is revolutionizing how we design and engineer biological systems for diagnostic and medical applications. In this talk, we will describe our integrated computational / experimental approach to engineering complex behavior in mammalian cells with applications to Programmable Organoids derived from iPS cells. In our research, we apply design principles from electrical engineering and other established fields. These principles include abstraction, standardization, modularity, and computer aided design. But, we also spend considerable effort towards understanding what makes synthetic biology different from all other existing engineering disciplines by discovering new design and construction rules that are effective for this unique discipline. We will present Programmable Organoids, a new platform for drug discovery that enables rapid and effective drug screening. Based on programmed differentiation into synthetic mammalian tissues having multiple cell type architectures that are similar to human organs, Programmable Organoids mimic the response of a target organ to both positive and negative effects of drug candidates. Factors that can be non-destructively measured include cell state, viability, and function. Because they are synthetic, Programmable Organoids can host a large array of live-cell biosensors, built-in to one or more cell types, providing a rapid and real-time spatial readout of pathway-specific biomarkers including miRNAs, mRNAs, proteins, and other metabolites. Organoids programmed with both general and disease specific sensors then provide detailed information that can be used to identify candidates for further analysis. We envision a programmable common platform that can be shared among multiple drug candidates.
Professor Kamm began his career at Northwestern University earning a degree in Mechanical Engineering. He subsequently earned both a Master’s and a PhD in Mechanical Engineering at MIT. Since 1978, he has been a professor of Mechanical Engineering at MIT. Professor Kamm was one of the founding members of the Biological Engineering department when it was created in 1998.
One of the major applications of living machines today is in the development of microfluidic platforms within which matrix and cells can be seeded in order to create a model of organ or tissue function, either in health or disease. These are often referred to as microphysiological systems (MPS), and are increasingly used by the research community to study disease processes and identify new therapies. They are also being adopted by the pharma and biotech industries for drug development and screening. This presentation will focus on two approaches to engineer MPS, either by a traditional top-down engineering approach or by drawing upon the emergent properties of cell populations to self-assemble into organ-like systems with the desired form and function. Several examples from our current research will be presented ranging from models of metastatic cancer to Alzheimer’s disease.
Prof. Lauffenburger received his B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Illinois and his Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Minnesota. Prior to coming to MIT, Prof. Lauffenburger was a professor at the University of Illinois and the University of Pennsylvania and a visiting professor at the University of Wisconsin. Prof. Lauffenburger has also served as a visiting scientist at the University of Heidelberg, Germany.
A vital challenge that the vast majority of biological research must address is how to translate observations from one physiological context to another—most commonly from experimental animals (e.g., rodents, primates) or technological constructs (e.g., organ-on-chip platforms) to human subjects. This is typically required for understanding human biology because of the strong constraints on measurements and perturbations in human in vivo contexts. Direct translation of observations from experimental animals to human subjects is generally unsatisfactory because of significant differences among organisms at all levels of molecular properties from genome to transcriptome to proteome and so forth. Accordingly, addressing inter-species translation requires an integrated experimental/computational approach for mapping comparable but not identical molecule-to-phenotype relationships. This presentation will describe methods we have developed for a variety of cross-species translation examples, demonstrated on applications in inflammatory pathologies and cancer.
Dr. Amitava ‘Babi’ Mitra is the founding Executive Director, New Engineering Education Transformation (NEET), Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA. He is co-leading a program to reimagine and transform MIT’s undergraduate engineering education, arguably one of the most impactful initiatives in higher education today.
What he enjoys doing most is setting up and leading innovative ‘start-up’ educational initiatives. He has over twenty-five years’ experience in institution building, higher education, corporate e-learning, and distance education. He transformed a small e-learning R&D group into the profitable Knowledge Solutions Business at NIIT, Inc., Atlanta, Georgia, USA as its Senior Vice-President. He was a founding member, Board of Governors, Pan-Himalayan Grassroots Development Foundation, an NGO established twenty-five years ago in the Kumaon mountains and Executive Director, Academic Media Production Services (AMPS), MIT. He was the founding Dean, School of Engineering & Technology, BML Munjal University (BMU), India where he launched ‘Joy of Engineering’, a first-year hands-on course designed to get students engaged with engineering. He was the first Chief, Distance Learning Programs Unit, Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS), Pilani, India.
Dr. Mitra is a Guest Editor, ASEE’s Advances in Engineering Education, the keynote speaker at the 4th International Conference of the Portuguese Society for Education in Engineering, Lisbon, Portugal, July 2020 and a panelist at the 8th International Research Symposium on Project Based Learning, Aalborg University, Denmark, August 2020. He participated in the ASEE Joint Panel on ‘Leveraging Experiential Education to Become an Emerging Engineering Education Leader’ at the 126th American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) National Conference, Tampa, Florida, June 2019, and at the 127th ASEE National Conference, 2020 and also presented co-authored peer-reviewed technical papers at both those conferences as well as at the 125th ASEE National Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah, 2018. He was the plenary speaker, Conference on Engineering Education for the Future 2019, ITA, Brazil, May 2019 and the keynote speaker, Innovations in Engineering Education International Conference, Higher Colleges of Technology, United Arab Emirates, April 2019. He co-authored “Reimagining Engineering Education”, an opinion editorial, Mechanical Engineering magazine, American Society of Mechanical Engineers, July 2018 and delivered an invited presentation on the “Future of Engineering Education”, Program Professors Dinner 2018, Eindhoven University of Technology, Eindhoven, Netherlands, May 2018.
He volunteers as a board member, ArborCreek Montessori Academy, Dallas, Texas, and was a member, National Advisory Board, SPIC MACAY (Society for the Promotion of Indian Classical Music and Culture Amongst Youth), India, a founding member, Sakai Project Board, USA and a member, NERCOMP Board of Trustees, USA. He served as co-chairperson, Advisory Board, and member, Program & Research Council, Royal Roads University, Victoria, Canada.
Dr. Mitra earned his M.Sc.(Hons) in chemistry and B.E. (Hons) and Ph.D. degrees in chemical engineering from BITS, Pilani, India where he was a National Science Talent Scholar. He matriculated from St. Columba’s School, New Delhi, India. He was born in New York City and grew up in India. His wife and he reside in Boston, Massachusetts and they have two children. He enjoys food, music, the intersects across people and technology, growing up with his children and playing squash.
The MIT New Engineering Education Transformation (NEET) program was launched in 2017 to reimagine engineering education at MIT. A cross-departmental endeavor with a focus on integrative, project-centric learning, NEET cultivates the essential skills, knowledge, and qualities to address the formidable challenges posed by the 21st century. NEET scholars simultaneously learn and acquire job-ready attributes such as leadership, working in teams, critical thinking, creative thinking, and ethical thinking.
Lightning Talks by NEET Living Machines Scholars