The goal of the Engineered Living Materials (ELM) program is to develop living materials that combine the structural properties of traditional building materials with attributes of living systems, including the ability to rapidly grow, self-repair, and adapt to the environment. Living materials represent a new opportunity to leverage engineered biology to solve existing problems associated with the construction and maintenance of our built environments, as well as new capabilities to craft smart infrastructure that dynamically responds to the surroundings. The specific program objectives are to develop design tools and methods that enable the engineering of structural features into cellular systems that function as living materials, thereby opening up a new design space for building technology. These new methods will be validated by the production of living materials that can reproduce, self-organize and self-heal.
ELM consists of two different technical tracks to balance near-term opportunities with long-term capabilities. The first track (Hybrid ELM) seeks to deliver hybrid materials composed of inert structural scaffolds that support the growth of living cells. The platform technologies created in Hybrid ELM are intended to be scalable and generalizable, so as to be transitioned from the lab to industry in the near-term. The second track (Programmable ELM) aims to discover fundamental engineering principles that enable the genetic programming of structural features into biological systems. Teams performing in Programmable ELM will seek to invent methods to program the development of multicellular systems with specified and tunable patterns and shapes.
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