Engineers investigate robust and reliable manufacturing of cells for future healthcare

Microfluidic systems may harvest living cells for biomanufacturing

Microfluidic systems may harvest living cells for biomanufacturing

October 2, 2015

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded $3.7 million for high-risk, high-impact research on the manufacturing of cells and cell-based products for future healthcare.

In 13 exploratory projects, researchers will investigate fundamental engineering and biology to address key challenges in the manufacturing of cell-based therapeutics and diagnostics.

While certain cells and cellular products have shown promise as medical therapeutics, clinical use will not be possible until they can be reliably produced in sufficient number, potency, purity and stability.

The NSF-funded projects involve several approaches.

To help procure consistent starting material for biomanufacturing, some researchers will pursue new methods using microdevices and platforms for cell separation to collect and prepare the living cells.

To efficiently cultivate the needed cells and cellular products in large quantities, other researchers will investigate engineering methods and devices to direct cell growth and differentiation.

These methods include, for example, techniques to grow the bone marrow cells used in leukemia treatments, devices to grow new heart tissue for patients and bioreactors to provide cells’ ideal growing environments.

Cell-based diagnostics present opportunities to study damage, disease and medications on living cells and tissues.

Research teams will devise complex, 3-D networks of cells, such as brain cells that serve as models for concussion research, and methods to selectively optimize the function of cultivated cell formations. Other researchers will combine the capabilities of cells and microdevices to create new tools to target cancer cells.

“Leveraging existing knowledge in engineering, biology and manufacturing, cellular biomanufacturing has the potential to impact not only human healthcare but also the chemical and energy industries,” said Pramod Khargonekar, NSF assistant director for engineering.

Watch an introduction to tissue engineering and biomanufacturing.



Media Contact
Sarah Bates, NSF, (703) 292-7738

Program Contact
Athanassios Sambanis, NSF, (703) 292-2161

Related Websites
Dear Colleague Letter on EAGERs for Cellular Biomanufacturing:
NSF Special Report: Advanced Manufacturing: Made to Order:

The U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation. With a fiscal year 2023 budget of $9.5 billion, NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 40,000 competitive proposals and makes about 11,000 new awards. Those awards include support for cooperative research with industry, Arctic and Antarctic research and operations, and U.S. participation in international scientific efforts.

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