Engineering Robotic Biological Systems

02/19/2018 - 3:00pm
Amor A. Menezes, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, University of Florida
Communicore, C1-15

Engineering biological processes for autonomous, on-line decision-making and control will transform medicine, science, and industry. For instance, regulating and optimizing biological system behavior can counter pathological conditions like tumorigenesis, and also provide personalized, targeted approaches to treatment. Similarly, cell-based controllers can potentially overcome environment fluctuations, host physiology variability, genetic circuit instability, and poorly-performing synthetic biology parts to produce a constant amount of a desired chemical. In this talk, I will discuss some of my efforts to realize SYBORGS, which are SYstems/SYnthetic Biological Optimization, Regulation or Generation Systems. I will emphasize: (1) the application of systems engineering approaches to yield novel biological insights and capabilities; (2) a transition from a "biology-in-the-loop" control paradigm, where electro-mechanical components externally regulate biological signals, towards one of biologically-integrated controllers; and (3) a realization of such control and optimization at different scales, namely, molecular, cellular, and population. First, I will demonstrate that a control-oriented dynamical systems approach to modeling trauma coagulation helps tailor the resuscitation of severely injured patients and addresses four outstanding clinical needs: mechanism capture, treatment personalization, rapid data provision, and dimension reduction. Next, I will describe how capturing evolution in dynamic environments as a tunable stochastic optimization process suggests a rationale of efficient search, with controllable responsiveness trade-offs that impact the synthetic biology technique of directed evolution. Finally, I will showcase development directions for biological systems in an exciting new venue, space synthetic biology. Together, these results will reveal the power and versatility of robotic biological systems.


Amor Menezes is an assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, an affiliate of the J. Crayton Pruitt Family Department of Biomedical Engineering, an affiliate of the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering and a member of the Institute for Cell & Tissue Science and Engineering at the University of Florida. He is the Science Principal Investigator of the five-year, multi-university, Center for the Utilization of Biological Engineering in Space (CUBES), a NASA Space Technology Research Institute in biomanufacturing for deep space exploration. He also leads the Systems Design and Integration Division in CUBES. He is an IEEE Senior Member. He was a 2015 Emerging Leader in Biosecurity and a 2015 fellow of the Synthetic Biology Leadership Excellence Accelerator Program. His research interests are in dynamical systems theory and control, with applications to the fields of systems biology and synthetic biology.

Professor Menezes joined the University of Florida in August 2017 after a year as an associate project scientist with the California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences (QB3) at the University of California, Berkeley. He was a QB3 Postdoctoral Scholar from 2011 to 2016. He was a research fellow between 2010 and 2011 in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Michigan, where he received a Ph.D. as an NSERC Post-Graduate Scholar and Michigan Teaching Fellow in 2010, and a Master of Science in engineering as a Milo E. Oliphant Fellow in 2006. He graduated from the University of Waterloo in 2005 with a Bachelor of Applied Science in mechanical engineering with Distinction, Dean's Honors (top 10%), and the Sandford Fleming Co-op Medal.