The living interface between synthetic biology and biomaterial design

Allen P. Liu, Eric A. Appel, Paul D. Ashby, Brendon M. Baker, Elisa Franco, Luo Gu, Karmella Haynes, Neel S. Joshi, April M. Kloxin, Paul H.J. Kouwer, Jeetain Mittal, Leonardo Morsut, Vincent Noireaux, Sapun Parekh, Rebecca Schulman, Sindy K.Y. Tang, Megan T. Valentine, Sebastián L. Vega, Wilfried Weber, Nicholas StephanopoulosOvijit Chaudhuri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recent far-reaching advances in synthetic biology have yielded exciting tools for the creation of new materials. Conversely, advances in the fundamental understanding of soft-condensed matter, polymers and biomaterials offer new avenues to extend the reach of synthetic biology. The broad and exciting range of possible applications have substantial implications to address grand challenges in health, biotechnology and sustainability. Despite the potentially transformative impact that lies at the interface of synthetic biology and biomaterials, the two fields have, so far, progressed mostly separately. This Perspective provides a review of recent key advances in these two fields, and a roadmap for collaboration at the interface between the two communities. We highlight the near-term applications of this interface to the development of hierarchically structured biomaterials, from bioinspired building blocks to ‘living’ materials that sense and respond based on the reciprocal interactions between materials and embedded cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)390-397
Number of pages8
JournalNature Materials
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank all the participants of the second Square Table workshop during which the ideas in this Perspective originated. The workshop was funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) grant BMAT-1939310. We especially acknowledge G. Iannacchione for his stewardship of the Square Table workshops. We also acknowledge support from the National Institutes of Health grants R01 EB030031 (A.P.L.), R35 GM138256 (L.M.), R21 CA232244 (K.H.), NSF grants CMMI 1846367 (O.C.), DMR-BMAT CAREER 1753387 (N.S.), EF-1934496 (V.N.), DMR-2004875 (N.S.J.), DMR-2004937 (M.T.V.), CBET-2033654 (B.M.B.), DMR-2037055 (S.L.V.), MCB-2033387 (S.K.Y.T.), DMR-2004796 (J.M.), DMR-2011824 (A.M.K.), the Human Frontiers in Science Program RGP0045/2018 (S.P.), Department of Energy grants DOE BES DE-SC-0010595 (E.F. and R.S.), DGF grant DFG-EXC-2189 (W.W.), Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science—Gravitation 024.001.035 (P.H.J.K.) and the DARPA Engineered Living Materials Program (P.D.A.).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, Springer Nature Limited.


  • Biocompatible Materials
  • Polymers
  • Synthetic Biology

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Review
  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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