Biological engineering

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Biological engineering (or bioengineering) is a science-based discipline founded upon the biological sciences in the same way that chemical engineering, electrical engineering, and mechanical engineering are based upon chemistry, electricity and magnetism, and classical mechanics, respectively.[1] While traditional engineering applies physical and mathematical sciences to analyze, design and manufacture inanimate tools, structures and processes, biological engineering uses the same sciences, as well as the rapidly-developing body of knowledge known as molecular biology, to study many aspects of living organisms.

In general, biological engineers attempt to either mimic biological systems to create products or modify and control biological systems so that they can replace, augment, or sustain chemical and mechanical processes. Bioengineers can apply their expertise to other applications of engineering and biotechnology, including genetic modification of plants and microorganisms, bioprocess engineering, and biocatalysis. Sub-disciplines of biological engineering include:

  • Bioprocess Engineering deals with the design and development of equipment and processes for the manufacturing of products such as food, feed, pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals, chemicals, and polymers and paper from biological materials.
  • Genetic Engineering is the direct human manipulation of an organism's genome using modern DNA technology.
  • Cellular Engineering uses engineering principles to understand and construct cellular and molecular circuits with useful properties.
  • Biomedical Engineering combines the design and problem solving skills of engineering with medical science to improve healthcare diagnosis, monitoring and therapy.
  • Biomimetics is the use of knowledge gained from evolved living systems to solve difficult design problems in artificial systems.

Although engineered biological systems have been used to manipulate information, construct materials, process chemicals, produce energy, provide food, and help maintain or enhance human health and our environment, our ability to quickly and reliably engineer biological systems that behave as expected is at present less well developed than our mastery over mechanical and electrical systems.[2]


  1. Cuello JC, Engineering to biology and biology to engineering, The bi-directional connection between engineering and biology in biological engineering design, Int J Engng Ed 2005, 21, 1-7
  2. Endy D, Foundations for engineering biology. Nature 438,449-4 2005,