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An integrated hybrid biological-materials platform for portable production of biomacromolecules

The current biopharmaceutical manufacturing systems has been heavily relying on fermentation in large-scale bioreactors. This makes it difficult for patients in remote parts of the world such as battlefields, emergency situations or under-developed regions with poor infrastructure to access these drugs, and presents formidable logistical challenges at the point-of-care. Therefore, single-use technologies featuring rapid, flexible, scalable and portable biomanufacturing systems for affordable, safe and reliable production are becoming increasingly important. To address this challenge, we developed a unique platform technology (“microbial swarmbots”), a programmable, hybrid biological-materials platform. Our central design concept is to couple autonomous lysis of cells and controlled periodical capsule squeezing. We engineered environmentally responsive bacterial populations that are encapsulated using synthetic or natural polymers. The populations are precisely controlled inside the capsules, and they contain gene circuits for sustained protein synthesis and autonomous release. The capsules respond to cell growth by shrinking, transporting the protein out of the capsule.The interplay between the two enables effective synthesis, release, and separation of diverse proteins. We also attach a purification module at downstream. The assembled platform allows the flexible production of a useful protein in a portable, continuous and integrated way.

Duke File (IDF) Number



  • You, Lingchong
  • Dai, Zhuojun
  • Lee, Anna "Anna"

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Pratt School of Engineering

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