The development of innovative approaches for controlling living systems represents a major challenge for biomedicine and biotechnology. Strategies available today frequently lack the required specificity and efficacy. This stems from our inability to adequately control key functions of our own bodies, and to efficiently control living systems in artificial environments.
In particular, novel “smart” drugs, cell based therapies and implants are required for successful therapeutic approaches for regenerative medicine. Furthermore, innovative strategies are required to prevent the formation of bacterial biofilms in clinical settings. Likewise, for biotechnology applications, innovative smart materials and devices are needed for the biomimetic culture of eukaryotic cells and to harness the properties of microbial biofilms. Therefore, the overarching challenge of the BioInterfaces in Technology and Medicine programme (BIFTM) is to develop novel approaches and new technologies to control living systems. Given the complexity of these systems, an absolute prerequisite is a deeper understanding of the living systems from the whole organism down to the molecular level. This demands the development of powerful analytical technology.
This represents an inherently transdisciplinary challenge. BIFTM fosters an environment which promotes active and efficient collaboration between the required scientific disciplines. Researchers from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) provide core expertise in biology, chemistry, physics, material sciences, micro- and nano-engineering, robotics and IT. Scientists from the Institute of Biomaterial Science in Teltow at the Helmholtz Zentrum Geesthacht (HZG) contribute complementary expertise in polymer chemistry and biological evaluation, as well as clinical expertise through their strategic alliance with the Berlin-Brandenburg Center for Regenerative Therapies (BCRT, jointly operated clinical translation centre of Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin and HZG/Teltow).
To attain its goals this programme focuses its activities on three interdependent areas:
- The acquisition of basic biological knowledge and its translation to the development of novel approaches to control organ and tissue formation and regeneration (Topic 1, Biological Networks and Synthetic Regulators).
- The development of third generation biotechnology for the control and manipulation of cells in artificial environments, specifically eukaryotic stem cells and bacterial biofilms (Topic 2, Cell Populations on Biofunctional Surfaces).
- The development of innovative polymer-based materials for medical devices and their translation in regenerative medicine (Topic 3, Multifunctional Polymers and Regenerative Medicine).
Perspectives for future research are described in a White Paper on the Biologization of Materials Research (external link to www.preprints.org) recently written by leading researchers of the BIFTM Programme at KIT.