Biological systems are incredibly complex. Gaining predictive understanding of their function will enable solutions to grand challenges in medicine, energy, and the environment. Much of our understanding of biological systems comes from the study of their individual “parts”, yet we have relatively poor understanding of how these parts are organized and assemble to enable the remarkable functions of cells, tissues, organisms, and ecosystems. BU faculty are applying the complementary approaches of systems and synthetic biology to investigate, understand, and exploit the design principles of complex biological systems. In systems biology, we are developing pioneering genomic technologies to map molecular networks in cells with high-resolution, and building computational models to predict their physiological and disease-related behaviors. BU faculty are also advancing the emerging discipline of synthetic biology, which offers a powerful, bottom-up approach to investigate and rewire these systems. We are developing methods to rationally design and evolve biological circuits, creating fundamentally new systems not found in nature, and using them to reprogram cellular behavior. Our efforts are paving the way for a new foundation of cell-based devices, diagnostics, and therapies that will provide transformative ways to combat complex diseases.


Systems and Synthetic Bioengineering Faculty 

Primary Faculty: Christopher ChenCharles Delisi, Mary Dunlop, James Galagan, Alexander GreenXue Han, Simon Kasif, Ahmad (Mo) KhalilJohn NgoAllyson Sgro, Wilson Wong, Muhammad Zaman

Research Faculty: Dmitri Beglov, Jeroen Eyckmans, Dima Kozakov

Affiliated Faculty: Douglas DensmorePankaj Mehta, Daniel Segrè

Emeritus: Charles Cantor, Temple F. Smith, Maxim Frank-Kamenetskii


Affiliated Research Centers


BME Systems and Synthetic Bioengineering in the news:

  • June 29, 2022

    Schmidt Award Will Empower Khalil to Pursue Cross-Disciplinary Research

    Associate Professor Ahmad “Mo” Khalil (BME) has earned the Schmidt Science Polymaths Award, recognizing him as a bold researcher and fueling the possibility of advances toward the engineering of new multicellular systems, including plants, that can help humanity address devastating diseases and grapple with climate change. Granting Khalil and his lab... [ More ]

  • May 17, 2022

    Biotech Developing “Tissue Therapeutics” to Treat Diseased Organs Launches from BU and MIT Labs

    Satellite Bio, a regenerative medicine company cofounded by College of Engineering’s Christopher Chen, has received $110 million in funding By Andrew Thurston Greater Boston has become the nation’s biotech hub—the Silicon Valley of life sciences, according to some—and Massachusetts is now reportedly home to more than 1,000 biotech companies, employing more than... [ More ]

  • March 18, 2022

    A Simple Test for Viral Detection

    Nature Biomedical Engineering has published Assistant Prof. Alex Green’s development of a new test that uses strands of RNA to return a test result. [...] [ More ]

  • February 23, 2022

    Green Garners Award to Develop Cell-Signal Sensor

    Assistant Professor Alexander Green (BME) and a colleague at Yale University have earned a Scialog Collaborative Innovation Award to develop a new type of sensor capable of detecting heretofore hidden signals within a cell, with potential applications both diagnostic and therapeutic. In the dense chemical machinery of the cell, certain proteins... [ More ]

  • February 18, 2022

    Trio Tapped to Join AIMBE College of Fellows

    Prestigious honor for top biomedical engineers For the second year in a row, three ENG faculty members have been elected to the College of Fellows of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE). This time, the honorees are Professor James Galagan (BME, Microbiology), Associate Professor Xue Han (BME), and... [ More ]

  • February 9, 2022

    Newly Named Allen Distinguished Investigators Aim to Recreate Lungs

    The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation has awarded funding to a trio of BU faculty for a bold, early-stage project aimed at lab-grown lungs that mimic the real organ in all its fractal complexity. The proposal of Associate Professor Wilson Wong (BME), Professor Christopher Chen (BME, MSE), and School of... [ More ]

  • November 18, 2021

    Cross-disciplinary research teams win Kilachand funding

    Five Studies Pushing the Limits of Science: This year’s Kilachand fund awards will support pioneering research across engineering and life sciences [ More ]

  • June 1, 2021

    Professor Ji-Xin Cheng and Coworkers Published in Nature Communications

    By Caroline Amato BU researchers reported an ultrafast fingerprint-stimulated Raman spectroscopic imaging platform, with broad applications to cancer metabolism, brain mapping, and biofuel production, in Nature Communications on May 24th, 2021.  This work was funded by grants from the Department of Energy and the NIH.  ECE Professors Ji-Xin Cheng and Lei Tian... [ More ]

  • May 26, 2021

    3 BME Professors Elected to IAMBE

    Congratulations to BU BME Professors Chris Chen, Joyce Wong and Mark Grinstaff on being elected 2021 Fellows of The International Academy of Medical and Biological Engineering. [ More ]

  • March 26, 2021

    One Small Step For A Mouse: Using Information Science to Understand the Brain

    by Allison Kleber How does learning a new skill or process change the physical structure of the brain? Using techniques from data science and high-dimensional statistics, Professors Bobak Nazer (ECE), Venkatesh Saligrama (ECE, SE), and Xue Han (BME), aim to find out. Their project, titled “Discovering Changes in Networks: Fundamental Limits, [ More ]