Priority Programme “Engineered Living Materials with Adaptive Functions” (SPP 2451)
Deadline: 23. Oktober 2023
In 2023, the Senate of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) established the Priority Programme “Engineered Living Materials with Adaptive Functions” (SPP 2451). The programme is designed to run for six years. The present call invites proposals for the first three-year funding period.
Natural living materials grow following information stored in their genetic code. They also undergo continuous and autonomous re-modelling in response to external factors and adapt their performance to new solicitations. Such properties are desirable in many technical materials, but they are extremely difficult to realise with non-living matter. In the SPP “Engineered Living Materials with Adaptive Functions”, new materials with programmable and adaptive capabilities will be realised by combining living organisms with materials in a synergistic way. Materials with advanced property combinations like responsiveness to multiple factors, resilience or evolvability are envisioned.
To unfold the potential of the synergistic engineering of non-living and living components, researchers in materials science and in biology/bioengineering need to work together. These communities should collaborate in the SPP 2451 to address some of the following research questions:
- How can materials be designed to allow sustained cellular survival and function?
- How can synthetic biology tools be interfaced with materials?
- How can processing technologies be made compatible with living cells?
- Which parameters and methods are required to characterise the dynamic behaviour of ELMs?
- What are the requirements for the standardised scale-up of ELM production?
- What are the potential risks and mitigation strategies for responsible application of ELMs in the future?
Augmenting the function of materials with living matter is expected to yield major innovations. Projects in the SPP will target the development of ELMs with adaptive functions as a long-term vision. The projects should go beyond proof-of-concept studies (i.e. straightforward combinations of engineered organisms and matrices). Within the first funding period, the focus will be on foundational approaches and technologies for designing, programming, synthesising and analysing living materials with adaptive function and responsible use. Each application is expected to address at least two of the following topics:
- Development of design rules for materials to sustain and regulate cell survival, confinement and function, and demonstrators that validate them.
- Development and validation of synthetic biological technologies to render living materials adaptive to desired stimuli.
- Development of material precursors and morphologies coupled to processing technologies (e.g., 3D printing) that can realise and upscale multi-material ELMs
- Development and validation of methods to characterise the dynamic nature of ELMs.
- Research on the responsible and safe use of ELMs