“I wasn’t one of those kids who enjoyed taking things apart and putting them back together. My parents weren’t scientists either, and I was not exposed to a lot of science at a young age. When I started my PhD in biomedical engineering at U of T, I was fortunate to have a great supervisor, and that’s when I began understanding the scientific method. I really enjoyed it, and that has led me down a path of exploring new questions and developing new technologies. And it’s been a really rewarding experience ever since.
As a biomedical engineering student, I was doing research at the interface of biology and engineering. I got really inspired by all the amazing molecular machineries that make up living organisms. Now, in my lab, we are interested in using biomolecules as building blocks to engineer artificial molecular machineries.
For example, one of the biomolecules that we play around with a lot in the lab is DNA. Usually, people think of DNA as a genetic material, but in our lab we use it as a programmable material with which to build devices from the bottom up. We use DNA-based materials to create anything from vaccines to molecular instruments that spy on biological systems.
I think it’s a great time to be thinking about engineering biology. Before Medicine by Design, my past experiences were not focused on solving problems in regenerative medicine. Medicine by Design opened the door for me to think about how my research might fit into this community.
Whether regenerative medicine is headed towards translation or even more fundamental discovery, I think now is a time of just an explosion of possibilities. Between the completion of the Human Genome Project and the plummeting costs of writing and reading DNA over the last two decades, we now have an unprecedented toolset to understand and edit biology. For example, the development of high throughput measurement and screening tools make it possible to identify new druggable targets for complex diseases such as cancer, or to promote tissue regeneration. Access to high purity DNA is also enabling the design of artificial molecules, circuits, and complexes as new classes of drugs and drug delivery vehicles.
I believe the next generation is the era of engineering biology, and there will be a lot more engineers who will want to explore the engineering of cells and biomolecules, and seeing their work translate clinically to benefit patients. That type of impact would be really cool.”