Technology is an integral part of our contemporary, connected world: The separation between the human and the machine is shrinking more and more, social media dominates human interaction, and devices are becoming more compact, more integrated with living tissues and the environment, and more capable of complex computation. New materials are bringing computing, sensing, and imaging to the skin and the insides of humans. Data are pervasive and rich in emergent information of diagnostic, social, and logistical importance that allows us to see the invisible, access and transfer information globally, and connect like we never have before. The internet of things and the internet of people are becoming one.
An abundance of research has captured the promise of sustainable, naturally-derived materials to redefine high technology, global health, and manufacturing. However, realizing their potential for effective, affordable, and sustainable devices with novel capabilities requires an integrated approach with strong scientific leadership and thoughtful design practices.
Need-driven development of transformative biomaterials
With a founding team of scientists approaching the challenge from distinct perspectives, L2D is pioneering naturally-derived materials with unusual properties to drive scientific discovery, sustainable manufacturing, and translation for a range of applications. L2D builds on our unique biomaterials platforms to address an evolving portfolio, beginning with four inaugural projects with global relevance.
Ar -Fighting Antimicrobial Resistance
The alarming global explosion in multiple drug-resistant bacterial pathogens is driving an urgent search for therapies that target the causes of treatment failure. Existing clinical diagnostics lack accurate quantitative measurement of drug tolerance and do not support simultaneous testing of an array of drugs. Led by Bree Aldridge, a 2013 recipient of the NIH Director’s New Innovator award, the L2D-Ar team is using new biomaterials to engineer programmable diagnostic platforms for information-rich testing tools that are shelf-stable and easy to use without specialized equipment or training.
Ph - Precision Health
Emerging knowledge about the interaction of the genome and diet for effective disease prevention and therapy points to a need for personalized interventions. Dr. Jose Ordovas, Director of the Nutrition and Genomics Laboratory at the Human Nutrition Research Center of Aging (HNRCA) at Tufts University, is a pioneer in the study of gene-diet interactions for cardiovascular diseases. Further progress in precision health will be greatly accelerated by developing wearable devices that integrate omics technologies to detect healthy living patterns. L2D faculty have already demonstrated a sensor that fits onto a single human tooth and samples biofluids in the oral cavity.
Bd - Blood Diagnostics for Global Healthcare
Rapid and inexpensive blood diagnostic tools that are easy to use at the point-of-care or provide sample stability for transport, will transform healthcare across all continents by providing quick, affordable and reliable information. Dr. Charles Mace, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and by a prestigious NSF CAREER award, will lead this revolution. L2D-Bd is using simple engineered biomaterials like paper, fabric, and textile fibers to design active sensors and passive medical devices that are inexpensive, portable, and easy to use.
Lt - Living Technology
Embedding naturally-derived materials in high-tech devices offers unprecedented opportunity to seamlessly integrate biology and technology. L2D is designing new format transistors that embed living elements such as proteins and enzymes to redefine the electronic chip. Harnessing protein folding-unfolding to generate stimuli-responsive biomaterials offers tremendous opportunities for fine-tuning control, response, and utility for applications including biosensors and controlled drug delivery. Outcomes will revolutionize gene sequencing, data processing, and information security.
Since 2010, when Science published Omenetto and Kaplan's review of potential applications of the astonishing properties of natural silk fibers, Tufts has been at the forefront in engineering bio-compatible materials with novel functions for a range of applications. In the past two years alone, Dr. Omenetto and colleagues received over 170 patents in this area, with 88 still pending. L2D’s materials-first environment builds on complementary research efforts in Tuft’s chemistry and environmental sciences, biology and biomedical engineering, human health, and the arts.
Bree Aldridge, TUSM
Joshua Finkelstein, Allen Discovery Center at Tufts
Charlie Mace, A&S
Fiorenzo Omenetto,* SoE
Jose Ordovas, HNRCA