NSF funds ‘blue sky’ bioengineering center to be based at UCSF

Center aims to unite Bay Area synthetic biologists, engineer biological machines

The National Science Foundation has awarded $24 million over five years for a new ‘blue-sky’ bioengineering center based at UC San Francisco. Known as the Center for Cellular Construction, the new initiative aims to transform the field of cell biology into a quantitative discipline and to adapt tools from engineering, the physical sciences, and computer science to design automated machines out of living cells.

“This is my lifelong dream,” said Wallace Marshall, PhD, a professor of biochemistry and biophysics at UCSF who will serve as director of the new center. Marshall says he has always looked for a way to combine his childhood loves of engineering and biology, citing a 1981 article in OMNI magazine which described fantastical biological computers: “The idea was that you could build computers and other machines using biological building blocks. That’s exactly what our new center will try to do.”




About the School: The UCSF School of Pharmacy is a premier graduate-level academic organization dedicated to improving health through precise therapeutics. It succeeds through innovative research, by educating PharmD health professional and PhD science students, and by caring for the therapeutics needs of patients while exploring innovative new models of patient care. The School was founded in 1872 as the first pharmacy school in the American West. It is an integral part of UC San Francisco, a leading university dedicated to promoting health worldwide.