Channel | updated November 12, 2013
Advances in basic biology at the molecular and cellular levels during recent decades have dramatically increased the foundational information available on mechanistic underpinnings of biological systems. Indeed, the genomics revolution has accelerated the pace at which reductionist data is being generated. It is widely agreed that a crucial challenge for the coming decades is how to integrate information from the genomic level to higher levels of system organization, for both fundamental scientific understanding and development of innovative biotechnologies. Engineering disciplines are predicated on the complementary principles of analysis and synthesis, combining to elucidate quantitative "design principles" for the dependence of system behavior on component properties. The "measurement, modeling, and manipulation" approach that has characterized engineering disciplines based on the sciences of physics and chemistry is now finding the molecular and cellular life sciences accessible and amenable as well. Thus, a new discipline of biological engineering is emerging, directed toward analysis of biological systems in terms of key component properties and consequently toward synthesis of technologies that can beneficially modify and control such systems for societal benefit across many, diverse application areas including human and environmental health.