Step into a world where biology, design, and technology intertwine, giving birth to a realm of endless possibilities. Welcome to the captivating realm of Biodesign!
It is a term which goes by many other terms which you may have heard: biomimetic design, biophilic design and bio-integrated design. The understanding and application of the word varies based on disciplines, language, cultural and individual perceptions.
Biodesign is a fast, evolving space. At the intersection of biology, design, and technology lies a shared understanding—a recognition that biodesign embodies the integration of biological processes and systems in novel and transformative ways. But its manifestation varies as it passes through the lens of each discipline. This article delves into the tapestry of interpretations of biodesign both theoretically and practically.
Within the realm of biology, biodesign takes on a new form, venturing into uncharted territories of possibility that synthetic biology has to offer.
(Synthetic biology is an interdisciplinary branch of biology that involves (re)designing and constructing biological parts, and systems by utilising bio-engineering tools.)
Synthetic biology, is a fast paced field which has many different avenues, ranging From lab-grown meat that promises a sustainable future to revolutionary Car-T cell therapies that combat diseases with remarkable precision. Synthetic biology unveils boundless possibilities.
More traditionally Biodesign can be the design and engineering of medical implants and devices using biological materials and principles. Picture a heart valve crafted from biological materials to reduce immunogenic risk and elegantly adapting to the needs of each patient. These developments are revolutionising the way we heal and enhancing the quality of life.
Extending beyond the boundaries of medical applications, biofabrication encompasses genetically engineered bacteria which can harnessed to create novel materials and products. We are beginning to see what this might mean with production of bioplastics from engineered bacteria and tissue engineering scaffolds make from a patients’ own cells.
Housed in the University of Bristol is the BioDesign Institute. Here, the essence of biodesign finds its home, encapsulated by a mantra: “From biomolecules to biosystems, from understanding to design.”
This institute focuses using biomolecules as the building blocks of innovation and manipulating biosystems with the tools of synthetic biology and computational modelling. This approach provides a path to minimal biological stuctures, enzyme development exploring novel avenues that hold the promise of revolutionizing healthcare
In the realm of biodesign from a design perspective, the concept of design expands beyond mere aesthetics. It becomes a creative process that encompasses functionality, user-friendliness, and a deep understanding of a product’s life cycle. Designing products with a greater understanding and consciousness surrounding a product’s life cycle is what has driven the integration of nature back to the forefront of design. Biodesign from the design perspective utilises biology in various forms as a media from which to create.
One of the initial strides in biodesign has been the increased utilisation of organic materials, moving away from fossil-fuel derived polymers. Nature becomes a wellspring of inspiration, causing a surge of popularity for biomimicry. In architecture, this translates into designing buildings that emulate the efficient structures found in nature or seamlessly integrating living systems into their very framework. Imagine structures with living walls, adorned with flourishing vegetation that enhances air quality and reduces energy consumption
Expanding the frontiers of design, biology emerges as a versatile medium. Mycelium, for instance, finds its place as insulation and packaging material. The textiles industry embraces the integration of biology through innovations like mushroom leather and synthetic spider silks. Designers are increasingly harnessing the potential of biomaterials to create biodegradable products that gracefully return to the earth, reducing waste and minimising pollution.
Within the walls of the infamous Central Saint Martins campus, is the Design and Living Systems Lab, where creativity and scientific inquiry intertwine, giving rise to a new era of ecological design. In this lab, the convergence of biology and design is used to innovate ecological designs to produce sustainable materials and forms. The ultimate goal? To facilitate the transition toward the visionary concept of ‘one planet living‘.
Technology is a collection of tools, machines, and processes that frequently advances human civilisation. It encompasses the knowledge of techniques and innovation, manifested in the form of machines, computers, and factories. The next wave of technology is coming as it intertwines with biology stretching the limits of biological possibilities.
This. wave offers the tools to manipulate and redesign biology. Within our grasp, we find bioprinting, bioinformatics, computer-aided design (CAD), nanotechnology, and the incredible tools of genetic engineering. These tools, constantly evolving alongside our expanding understanding of biological systems.
And as our understanding deepens, the domain of bioinformatics expands, illuminating the intricate dance of wet-lab data with unprecedented clarity. This growing discipline enables us to extract greater meaning and insights, optimizing the systems we create. Through more mechanical technology advancements we now have the ability to 3D print biological materials which can be used in biofabrication for cellular agriculture, regenerative medicine and bio-textiles.
The fast-moving Technology X Biology space includes the fascinating work being done at Francis Crick Institute. Here, Erika Alden DeBenedictis leads the Biodesign Lab where they utilise lab automation, computational protein design and continuous evolution. These technologies are being used by the team to accelerate their understanding and development of biotechnology to engineer proteins and microorganisms. The end goal is to utilise these products for applications with the likes of disease treatments, food production and bioplastics.
Biodesign is the harmonious convergence of, bioengineering, technology, and design, propelling us to explore the future of life itself. While interpretations may differ across these fields, they all share a common theme: the integration of biology into the design process and the reimagining of solutions and systems that coexist symbiotically with nature. These differing definitions are not conflicting but complementary. They reveal the multifaceted nature of biodesign and its potential to address a wide range of challenges across industries while fostering limitless creativity.
As synthetic biology, design, and technology continue to advance and interweave, new applications will emerge, each demanding its own vocabulary and defining characteristics. These evolving definitions will influence one another over time, shaping the trajectory of Biodesign. It is within this entanglement of interpretations that we find an opportunity to embrace a holistic and innovative approach to problem-solving, one that optimises benefits for both humanity and the broader environment.
There is no set definition of Biodeisgn, which in itself exemplifies the boundless and dynamic space that provides the breadth to push the frontiers of possibility from all angles.
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