Wendell Lim

Wendell Lim is a professor in the Department of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), and an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Lim received his A.B. in chemistry at Harvard University, his Ph.D. in biochemistry and biophysics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and completed postdoctoral research in molecular biophysics atYale University. He is the recipient of awards from the Packard Foundation, Searle Foundation, Burroughs Wellcome Fund, and the Protein Society. He is the director of the UCSF/NIH Center for Systems and Synthetic Biology, director of the Cell Propulsion Lab, an nih Roadmap Nanomedicine Development Center, and deputy director of the National Science Foundation (NSF) Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center. Lim’s research focuses on cell signaling—understanding the molecular circuits that allow cells to communicate, detect signals, make decisions, and execute complex behaviors. He is a pioneer in the emerging field of synthetic biology, which attempts to utilize our understanding of biological mechanisms to engineer cells and biological systems with useful applications in diverse areas ranging from medicine to agriculture to energy. He is a leading expert on how to rewire cells to control and modulate what types of decisions they make. He is interested in how the design process can be creatively applied in science.

Will Carey

Will Carey is a designer at IDEO (Palo Alto, California) who focuses on combining interaction and industrial design to create provocative and inspiring experiences. He is particularly attentive to the relationship between people and technology and the role of new innovations in shaping our behavior both physically and digitally. He sees an important role for design in provoking thought and discussion, and this curiosity drives him to explore new scenarios in which it is possible to question the social and ethical implications of emerging technology. Will has worked internationally in London, Japan, Milan, and San Francisco. He has exhibited in London, Milan, NewYork, and Tokyo, and won internationally recognized design awards, including Design Week’s Future of Design,Wallpaper’s Best Debut Collection, and, most recently, Blueprint’s Best Show, during 100% Design London. Will has a B.A. in product design from Central St Martin’s, London, and an M.A. in Design Interactions from the Royal College of Art.
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"Packaging That Creates Its Contents" in Paris

 

"Packaging that Creates its Contents" by Synthetic Aesthetics residents Will Carey, Adam Reineck, Reid Williams, and Wendell Lim was exhibited at En Vie/ Alive, curated by Carole Collet at Espace Fondation EDF, Paris, France, April 26 2013 – September 1 2013

"We imagine an extreme probiotic drink that relies on bacteria to morph into a physical cup when exposed to a specific light wavelength. During shipping and storage, these light-moulded cups  are ‘alive’ but remain dormant until water is poured inside, creating an effervescent, healthy drink. After several uses, the cup’s walls begin to degrade and it can be composted.

‘Packaging That Creates Its Contents’ helps people think about what the world would be like if packaging never created waste. Hotwiring what scientists are already doing with bacteria – responding to light, in this case – completely changes the concept of packaging. By imagining biodegradable, lightweight containers built from living materials that reanimate when filled with liquid, the project aims to provoke further design exploration of the potential of synthetic biology for industrial design and packaging applications.

“Intriguingly, objects made from living organisms could have unique properties that go beyond their mode of manufacture,” writes Christopher Mims for Fast Company. “In this concept, the bacteria used to grow the cup is also an aid to digestion. Once filled with plain water, the cup starts to produce probiotics. Such a cup would challenge one of the primary tenets of consumer goods; namely, that packaging is secondary to the product being sold.”

The intersection of design and science allows both fields to explore new questions. Developing a closer relationship with biology allows designers to begin to imagine a future with no waste. Understanding how to program living organisms points to a new frontier of coding – beyond software, into materiality. This project has been developed with the support of IDEO San Francisco."

Photo: Nicolas Zurcher, Render: IDEO. 

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Living Amongst Living Things receives a Notable mention from Core77

Will Carey and Adam Reineck were recognised for their collaboration with Wendell Lim and Reid Williams at UCSF in the Core77 2012 Design Awards, receiving a notable mention in the speculative category. Jury members described the work as follows:

This is a most interesting collaboration between designers and scientists to create biodesigned projects. – Bernardo Fernandez

This concept is very provocative, as always happens with science. You have to think where to stop before making life-changing discoveries. This concept opens up a new field of study that is really amazing. I really hope the authors are aware of all the risk factors. – Irina Kharseeva

This is IDEO, so this is classy and deft. It’s “design fiction” that would impress people in the boardroom. – Bruce Sterling

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Growing plants engineered for their field

 

Read more about the ongoing work of Will Carey and Adam Reineck from IDEO and Reid Williams from the Lim Lab at UCSF in this FastCompany article here.

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Training Bacteria to Grow Consumer Goods

Read the article here.

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"Build Life to Understand It" argue Lim and Elowitz

Biologists and engineers should work together: synthetic biology reveals how organisms develop and function, argue Michael Elowitz and Wendell A. Lim in Nature 468, December 2010

"Although traditional disciplinary boundaries are dissolving, the cultural differences between scientists and engineers remain strong. For biologists, genetic modification is a tool to understand natural systems, not an end in itself. Thus, making biological systems 'engineerable' — a goal of engineers in the field of synthetic biology — can seem pointless. Many biologists wonder why engineers fail to appreciate the intricate, beautiful and sophisticated designs that occur naturally. Engineers are often equally perplexed by biologists. Why are they so obsessed about the details of one particular system? Why don't they appreciate the value of replacing a complex and idiosyncratic system with a simpler, more modular and more predictable alternative? These misunderstandings can make for fascinating conversations, but they can also prevent mutually beneficial synergies."

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IDEO brainstorm

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Preparing dna sample for gel analysis

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cutting tec01 away from plasmid

Restriction enzymes cut DNA in the correct place

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Learning what can be done with polymerase, copying Tec 1 using PCR

e-coli

Many copies of Tec 1 have been successfully copied using PCR, both Adam and I were really impressed by the ability of polymerase to copy the exact part of the cell required for our experiment. It made us think that this machine like functions at such a small cellular level, could be used for other applications. What if we could take such principle sand apply them to the actual material and its behavior in various conditions. We imagined how this might affect packaging, the design of behavior in material object s and other opportunities that make up the physical environment of our everyday life’s.

Adam is preparing media to grow our e-coli bacteria, could this scene be inspiration for what the factories of tomorrow may look like? As designers we often stay one step  removed from the factory floors that manufacture and assemble the consumer goods that we design.  Taking a hands on approach to the creation of altered living cells is certainly one step ahead of what we are used to designing. Could this be the beginning of a new material future, are these the tools that may one day be in the hands of many or is this just confined to the specialist of the laboratory?

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'Choosing good problems is essential for being a good scientist. But what is a good problem, and how do you choose one? ....... Scientists are expected to be smart enough to figure it out on their own and through the observation of their teachers. This lack of explicit discussion leaves a vacuum that can lead to approaches such as choosing problems that can give results that merit publication in valued journals, resulting in a job and tenure.' — Uri Alon, 2009
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Getting to know the Lim Lab

There is an abundance of clear liquid, colored plastic and tools for moving liquid between containers in the lab. The smell of yeast lingers and people move with purpose around the lab preparing and initiating experiments to study the cell signaling behaviors of cells.

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