Cell Display as a Method for Assembling Novel or Improved Materials and Microelectronic Components

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Cell display as a method for assembling novel or improved materials and microelectronic components
Professor Angela Belcher
Department of Biological Engineering, MIT
External Link (belcherlab.mit.edu)
Karl Wittrup
Department of Chemical Engineering, MIT
External Link (kdw-lab.mit.edu)
Eric Krauland
Department of Biological Engineering, MIT
Beau Peelle
Department of Biological Engineering, MIT
Managed By
Michelle Hunt
MIT Technology Licensing Officer
Patent Protection

Cell display libraries

US Patent 8,450,247
Design Criteria for Engineering Inorganic Material-Specific Peptides
Langmuir, 2005, 21 (15), pp 6929–6933


This cell display-based assembly method can be used to scaffold, organize, and assemble materials into electrical, magnetic, and spintronic devices. It can be used to generate materials with novel or improved properties, functionalized surface coatings, image contrast agents, and cell-based biosensors.

Problem Addressed

Microelectronic devices must be assembled into organized structures that meet precise design requirements at the nanometer scale. In the semiconductor industry, this is performed using serial lithography. Alternatively, living systems are capable of assembling organic-inorganic molecules to generate complex hybrid structures (e.g., teeth). Unlike traditional processing methods, the use of biological fabrication systems (i.e. cell display method) allows for parallel self-assembly of multiple components on a single device, self-correction, and compositional accuracy in the context of highly complex architectures. 


Complementary biomolecules (e.g., DNA base pairs, antibody-antigen) are stable building blocks of complex biological structures. Biomolecules can also exhibit a highly specific affinity for inorganic molecules, presenting a promising method for the assembly of complex hybrid structures. Cell display uses these strong biological interactions to fabricate and organize materials in a self-assembling production system.  Cell display is a protein engineering technique with two steps: 1) Produce a library of genetically encoded biomolecules in a cell population; and 2) select the biomolecules that display novel or improved interactions with a material of interest (e.g., nanoparticles of iron oxide, semiconductor quantum dots). The cells self-assemble and their bound components are organized into higher order structures. This building process can be regulated by external factors (e.g., light, temperature) and is capable of organizing materials from the molecular to the macro scale. 


  • Low cost of production
  • High scalability
  • Highly accurate self-assembly
  • Self-correcting capability
  • Can control the size, shape, and growth of host cells