Multicellular Design Program

The mission of the Multicellular Design Program (MDP) is to understand the underlying design principles governing multicellular systems, and to leverage these principles for the development of new technologies.

Extensive scientific efforts have been devoted to understanding cells as autonomous systems, but in nature, cells function as multicellular systems. Microbes live in biofilms, and cells in our own tissue and organ systems always operate in coordinated communities. Understanding multicellular design, assembly, and control principles will transform our approach to biomedical and environmental problems.

Boston University is home to a world-class team of scientists whose expertise spans multiple disciplines, including Synthetic Biology, Microbial Engineering, Tissue Engineering, Data Science, and Biophysics – an exciting place to study multicellular design! Indeed, the Multicellular Design Program is the physical and organizational infrastructure needed to steward a self-sustaining, vibrant community of BU scientists to pioneer this critical new field.

Specifically, the program provides:

  • A platform for scientists across BU to bring to bear their expertise in computing, physics, mathematics, engineering, biology, and medicine into a major integrated effort to understand the design principles of multicellular systems
  • A new training ground for students and postdoctoral fellows at these interfaces, and
  • A new science that researchers across the globe can participate in. This program will shepherd in a new era in engineering biology with major societal impacts and demonstrate these impacts through creating synthetic multicellular communities for the rational design of smart medical therapies.

The next major breakthrough in medicine and environmental regulation will only come through the understanding of multicellular design, assembly, and control principles. The Multicellular Design Program will accelerate these breakthroughs by furthering our understanding of the general principles underlying multicellular systems and through the development of novel tools and theory aimed at predictively designing systems, functions, and therapeutics.

The Multicellular Design Program is supported by the Rajen Kilachand Fund for Life Sciences and Engineering, as part of a generous gift from Boston University’s trustee Rajen Kilachand (Questrom’74, Hon.’14).