Science Market Update

UCSF Receives $24M from NSF for New Research Center

Posted by Emily Olson on Wed, Oct 05, 2016

The National Science Foundation has awarded $24 million to create the Center for Cellular Construction; a new bioengineering center based at UC San Francisco. The cutting edge interdisciplinary center will transform the field of cell biology by bringing together cell biologists, engineers, physicists, and computer scientists to create machines made out of living cells. 

Wallace Marshall, PhD, a professor of biochemistry and biophysics at UCSF, will serve as director of the new center along with UCSF biologists Wendell Lim, PhD, and Zev Gartner, PhD

20150224_130353.jpgThe center will be administered by UCSF and includes researchers from San Francisco State University, Stanford University, UC Berkeley and IBM Research – Almaden. According to a UCSF news release, "researchers in the new center will collaborate to develop new scientific tools to allow scientists to reliably engineer cells for desired functions by modifying their internal organization; to design complex multicellular and multi-organism structures to accomplish specific tasks; and to develop living “bioreactors” that can generate products of commercial value such as drugs or biofuels."

“The notion of engineering biology is very different from what other engineers think about,” said Gartner, an associate professor of pharmaceutical chemistry at UCSF and one of the center's directors. “It’s not chipping pieces off a block or snapping components together – biological systems are self-organizing, and that presents both a great challenge and an incredible opportunity."

“If we could engineer biology like we currently engineer cars or factories, the implications would be limitless,” Gartner said. “Imagine self-assembling materials, chemical plants that could adapt to process multiple different feedstocks or respond to changing environmental conditions, or medicines that could go after diseases in smart ways. What’s more, understanding the fundamentals of how cells change and adapt could give us better abilities to look at diseased tissues and figure out what’s going wrong based on how the cells are behaving.”

Researchers in the Center will Focus on Creating Five Core Projects:

  • Cellular Machine Shop: A core facility full of cell engineering tools, including "high-throughput quantitative imaging systems, gene synthesis tools, and next generation sequencing machines."
  • Computer Aided Design (CAD): A computational platform to help researchers around the world design cells and multicellular structures with precision and predictability.
  • Multicellular Engineering: Molecular tools to build "multicellular structures capable of executing complex functions using multiple specialized cell types or organisms as building blocks."
  • Cell State Inference Engine: Image analysis software that will enable researchers to use engineered cells as living sensors of environmental conditions.
  • Living Bioreactor: Cells engineered to have improved biofuel yields; researchers will achieve this by modifying cells' internal structures and combining them with other cell-types and organisms.


On Thursday, January 19th, 2017  Biotechnology Calendar, Inc. will host the 12th Annual Biotechnology Vendor Showcase™ Event at UCSF Mission Bay. This is a great opportunity for laboratory equipment suppliers to market lab products to active life science researchers at this $1 billion research market. This semiannual event allows researchers to meet face to face with scientific supply companies, so that they can discuss their needs and see demonstations of newest products and technologies to further their work. To learn more about participating in this trade fair event, visit the link below or call (530) 272-6675:

Exhibitors: Attend  Mission Bay Event

Tags: University of California San Francisco, California, University of California, Research Funding, UCSF, Southwest Region, UCSF Mission Bay, NSF award, New research center

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