MSE Research Project Database

Design Tools for Systems and Synthetic Biology

Project Leader: Edmund Crampin
Staff: Peter Gawthrop, Peter Cudmore
Student: Michael Pan
Collaborators: Peter Hunter (Auckland Bioengineering Institute)
Primary Contact: Edmund Crampin (
Keywords: biomedical engineering; computational biology; control and signal processing; numerical modelling; systems biology
Disciplines: Biomedical Engineering
Research Centre: Systems Biology Laboratory

Understanding how biological cells work requires combining information from many different domains – biochemical, electrical, mechanical. Working out how these different aspects of cells interact is a challenge. Predicting what happens if the system is altered (in disease, or through biotechnology, for example) is even harder. We are applying a set of techniques which engineers have developed to understand man-made systems, to biological systems. This approach tracks the flow of energy through a cell's network of biochemical reactions. This allows us to effectively combine different aspects of the cell within the same unifying mathematical description. One of the reasons engineers have used these methods for man-made systems is because they want to be able to control them. In addition to understanding cell function, ultimately this approach will lead to the ability to more easily and reliably modify biological systems with predictable outcomes – so that we can better understand and hence treat disease, and so that we can design new biological systems for biotechnological and biomedical applications, and by applying engineering design principles we can design new biological systems (synthetic biology).

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