Biological & Bio-Inspired

Biotechnology and Bio-Inspired is focused on new biological materials derived through synthetic biology as well as classical approaches. Novel biological materials are combined with inorganic devices to sense chemical and biological agents, generate power from organic sources, and produce materials to create new protection designs inspired by nature.

Systems Biology: Metabolic Network Reconstruction to Designed Microbial Consortia

Systems Biology is the study of how biological systems develop emergent properties from their various components. It uses information-rich experimental techniques to capture how information flows from genome to biological characteristics at the systems level.  This lays the groundwork to take biotechnologies to robust and reliable Army applications by developing system-level models to understand natural processes, guide experimentation, and build synthetic systems. Natural microbial communities are capable of completing highly complex tasks such as water purification or waste remediation, but many of these processes are not currently well understood. Presently it is possible to monitor, enhance, predict, and control only select single organisms to perform engineered tasks. To achieve the goals of functionality, flexibility, efficiency, and usefulness requires a deeper understanding of symbiotic consortia from a few to a few thousand organisms. Further refinement of the understanding of single organism systems and expansion to consortia would allow engineering strategies to convert food waste to biofuels and other commodity chemicals such as polymer precursors, 3-D printing substrates, and lubricants. Specifics of the ARL effort include:

  • Facilities and expertise for advanced fermentation, genetic engineering, and systems biology including genomics, transcriptomics, and metabolomics
  • Extensive work in anaerobic microbiology, expanding to microbial consortia
  • Specialized modeling and simulation tools for metabolic function and flux analysis
  • Enabling technology for waste mitigation and commodity chemical production

Principal Investigator:

Dr. Christian Sund christian.j.sund.civ@mail.mil 301-394-1880

Biomaterials: Next-Generation Sensing to Living Materials

Biomaterials research is focused on fulfilling the need for alternative and hybrid materials addressing critical gaps in adaptability, manufacturability, and stability through an integrated basic and applied research program.  This includes comprehensive discovery tools for understanding interactions and predicting enhanced performance at the interface of peptide, protein, and cellular structures.  Applications range from ubiquitous threat bio-sensing, Soldier performance, smart skins, and uniforms to bottom up materials fabrication and assembly of living paints and materials.  A key emphasis is the ability to rapidly discover and develop functional biomaterials that are stable in austere military environments, including temperature extremes. With an improved understanding of biointerfaces and advances in synthetic biology, future work may include autonomous and directed patterning, reconfigurable binding, self-healing, living coatings and biopaints.  Integration with non-living materials will make possible bioMEMS components, bioelectronics, and other advanced and responsive devices.  Specifics of the ARL collaboration opportunities include the following:

  • Facilities and expertise for discovery of custom engineering strategies and study of biomolecular and bacterial interactions via biocombinatorial methods for genetically engineered peptides for inorganics, hybrid biomaterials, and living material systems.
  • Synthetic biology and protein engineering for reconfigurable bacterial interfaces.
  • In-house facilities and expertise for discovery, development, and evaluation of extremely stable (protease resistant, extreme thermostability), and highly manufacturable peptide reagents for diagnostics, biosensing, and other applications.
  • Specialized modeling and simulation tools for bio-bio and bio-abio interactions, using secure DOD High Performance Computing Facilities.

Principal Investigator:

Dr. Dimitra Stratis-Cullum dimitra.n.stratis-cullum.civ@mail.mil 301-394-0794