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Primary Focus Areas


Engineers at MIT have developed genetic circuits in bacterial cells that not only perform logic functions, but also remember the results. Credits Liang Zong and Yan Liang (MIT)
Credit: Liang Zong and Yan Liang (MIT)

Engineering Biology
Rapid advances in the ability to genetically modify biological organisms have advanced a new engineering discipline, commonly referred to as engineering biology. This approach seeks to harness the power of living systems for a variety of manufacturing applications, such as advanced therapeutics, sustainable fuels, chemical feedstocks, and advanced materials.  Our work is focused on the development of measurements and other tools that will enable improved predictability and scalability in the engineering of biological systems.



Advanced Therapies
Advanced therapies are demonstrating promising clinical efficacy and could change the paradigm for treating a wide range of diseases and injuries. Clinical translation of this broad class of new therapeutics requires better defined and characterized products and more robust, reliable, and cost-effective manufacturing processes.  NIST contributes  by 1) developing measurement solutions, 2) serving as a neutral ground for the discussion of underpinning measurements and other manufacturing needs, and 3) leading and contributing to the development of standards. 


Breast Cancer Cells

Precision Medicine
The conventional approach to medicine is rapidly changing to a data-driven strategy in which therapies are individually targeted to a patient based on genome, physiology, environment, or lifestyle. This approach is revolutionizing health care— especially in the treatment of cancer—but its success depends on the use of data from many bioanalytical measurements that have many potential wide-ranging biases and uncertainties.  The goal of precision medicine is to target diagnostic, treatment and prevention strategies to individuals based on their biological and clinical profile.



Microbial communities (microbiomes) abound everywhere, forming resilient ecological networks adapted to their environments. Research has connected the behavior of these cooperative communities to both beneficial and problematic outcomes in diverse biological systems including: human health, agricultural productivity, water and food safety, waste remediation, and infrastructure corrosion.  At NIST, we are improving microbiome science and supporting the National Microbiome Initiative.


Created September 22, 2016, Updated March 11, 2020