DeBenedictis lab Biodesign Laboratory

Small vials containing a pale yellow liquid.

We use evolution as a powerful engineering tool to craft new biological processes.

Evolution was one of humanity's first engineering tools. Ancient humans unknowingly used evolution to create useful organisms when they cultivated crops and bred animals. We have used evolution for biological engineering long before it was understood that breeding works through the slow accumulation of DNA changes over many generations.

The Biodesign Laboratory aims to wield evolution as a powerful tool for engineering parts of biology that are still  beyond our understanding. Unlike traditional engineering tools that are quite systematic, evolution is highly unpredictable. We use automated robots to help us conduct evolution at scale in a safe, reliable way. This allows us to rapidly work together with nature to create new, useful tools in biology.

At the microscale, we are interested in engineering proteins, which are tiny molecular machines that are responsible for making living organisms work using chemistry. We aim to use systematic evolution to engineer custom proteins so that they can cure diseases or better understand biology. At the larger scale, evolution can help us create new organisms for uses beyond Earth, such as microbes that can grow on Mars and can be used to manufacture useful products like bioplastic and food.