The second edition of the “EMBL-IBEC Conference on Engineering Multicellular Systems“, which focused on the medicine of the future, addressed the latest advances in emerging fields of bioengineering, such as organ-on-chip assays, 3D bioprinting, cellular mechanobiology, biorobots, stem cell biology, and how all these advances have revolutionized our ability to design and assemble multicellular living systems, from organoids to embryos.
This biennial event, which is being consolidated in Barcelona as an international benchmark, has focused on how the engineering of multicellular living systems is driving our understanding of tissue and organ function, with applications in disease modeling, drug screening and tissue engineering, and their applications in the medicine of the future.
Few areas of research are capable of having an impact on the medicine of the future as bioengineering. Recent advances in this field have been key in the design and development of various technologies. These approaches help researchers to understand the functioning of our tissues, and at the same time suggest questions related to human diseases and aging.
Another key aspect of bioengineering is to identify the possible ethical risks and the social impact that these new technologies may have on future medicine, aspects that were also discussed at this biennial, with the outstanding participation of Matthew Sample, Leibniz Universität Hannover, and Amy Hinterberger, King’s College London.
The conference featured 19 invited experts from the field of bioengineering, Karen Alim, Technical University of Munich; Cristina Barrias, i3S – Instituto de Investigação e Inovação em Saúde; Talya Dayton, Hubrecht Institute; Morgan Delarue, Laboratoire d’analyse et d’architecture des systèmes; Mina Gouti, Max-Delbruck Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC); Jacob Hanna, Weizmann Institute of Science; Anna Herland, KTH Royal Institute of Technology; Meritxell Huch, Max Planck Institute for Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics; Roger Kamm, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Kinneret Keren, Technion – Israel Institute of Technology; Pierre François Lenne, Institut de biologie du développement de Marseille; Prisca Liberali, Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research; Sasha Mendjan, Institute of Molecular Biotechnology; Aurélien Roux, Université de Genève; Selman Sakar, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL); Samuel Sanchez, Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia; Marta Shahbazi, MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology; Vikas Trivedi, European Molecular Biology Laboratory; Jochen Wittbrodt, University of Heidelberg, Germany.
As an innovative element, this second edition also incorporated a citizen science activity carried out in collaboration with MIT Boston, where a dialogue with high school students about new biological systems was proposed, which aimed to answer questions about the definition of “living being”, the benefits that these new systems can bring us and the ethical implications of their creation and use.
The conference stems from a collaboration agreement between the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) and the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC) and was led by researchers Xavier Trepat, Núria Montserrat and Josep Samitier from IBEC, and James Sharpe, Miki Ebisuya and Vikas Trivedi from EMBL Barcelona. Both institutions carry out excellent and responsible research, developing technology for precision medicine and fundamental knowledge to improve people’s health.