Tech Briefs Magazine - June 2022 - 52

FACILITY FOCUS
University of Pennsylvania School of Engineering
T
he University of Pennsylvania School
of Engineering and Applied Science,
more commonly known as Penn Engineering
or SEAS, offers programs that
emphasize hands-on study of engineering
fundamentals while encouraging students
to leverage the educational offerings
of the broader University. Penn
Engineering offers bachelors, masters,
and Ph.D. degree programs in contemporary
fields of engineering study.
An Ivy League university located in
the city of Philadelphia, Penn was the
first of its kind, a university created for
the purpose of building knowledge that
would benefit the future of our country
and mankind. Established in 1852 as the
School of Mines, Arts and Manufactures,
Penn Engineering is among the
oldest engineering programs in the
United States.
Penn's School of Engineering and Applied
Science is organized into six departments
including Bioengineering; ChemiBijels
are structured emulsions of oil and water that are kept separated by a layer of nanoparticles.
Penn Engineering researchers will develop a way of using them to manufacture mRNA-based therapeutics.
(Image: Penn Engineering)
cal and Biomolecular Engineering; Computer and Information
Science; Electrical and Systems Engineering; Materials Science
and Engineering; and Mechanical Engineering and Applied
Mechanics.
Bioengineering Breakthroughs
COVID-19 vaccines are just the beginning for mRNA-based
therapies. However, because mRNA molecules are very fragile,
they require extremely low temperatures for storage and transportation.
The logistical challenges and expense of maintaining
these temperatures must be overcome before mRNA therapies
can become truly widespread.
With these challenges in mind, Penn Engineering researchers
are developing a new manufacturing technique that would be
able to produce mRNA sequences on demand and on-site, isolating
them in a way that removes the need for cryogenic temperatures.
The concept at the heart of the DReAM technique is a
continuous enzymatic reaction and separation process, enabled
by a complex form of liquid media known as a " bijel. "
Bijels, or bicontinuous interfacially jammed emulsion gels,
are structured emulsions of oil and water that are kept separated
by a layer of nanoparticles. This highly intertwined but unbroken
arrangement allows for continuous chemical reactions
and isolation of products, as reactant molecules can be fed into
one of the phases while the reaction's products are extracted
from the other.
The DReAM technology enables continuous synthesis and
isolation of mRNA, overcoming the challenges posed by the
conventional technique that relies on multi-step complex sepa52
ration
processes that are performed one batch at a time. Moreover,
by enabling mRNA's isolation into the oil phase of the bijel,
the sequences would be stabilized and protected from the
degradation that readily occurs in water. In addition to circumventing
transportation logistics, this extra protection would significantly
reduce the need for cryogenic storage.
In the fight against diseases, mRNA-based approaches are a
promising tool. These treatments all depend on providing a
patient's cells with genetic instructions for custom proteins and
other small molecules, meaning that getting those instructions
inside the target cells is of critical importance. The current delivery
method of choice uses lipid nanoparticles (LNPs) but
figuring out how to design the most effective LNP is a fundamental
challenge.
Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania's School of
Engineering and Applied Science and Perelman School of
Medicine have now shown how to computationally optimize
the design of these delivery vehicles. Their study shows how
potent LNPs can be designed more rapidly for use in the immune
cell space and potential use of this method to further
optimize LNPs for other mRNA therapeutic applications.
With Vivodyne, Associate Professor in the Department of
Bioengineering Dan Huh is translating the organs-on-chips
technology into a promising industry venture. Using microfluidic
structures that mimic aspects of human physiology, organson-chips
allow scientists to test therapies on lab-grown human
cells. Vivodyne specifically focuses on designing organs-onchips
to create a scalable alternative for pharmaceutical drug
testing on animals.
www.techbriefs.com
Tech Briefs, June 2022
TB Facility Focus 0622_1.indd 52
Cov
ToC
5/19/22 10:20 AM
http://www.techbriefs.com http://info.hotims.com/82322-850

Tech Briefs Magazine - June 2022

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Tech Briefs Magazine - June 2022

Tech Briefs Magazine - June 2022 - Intro
Tech Briefs Magazine - June 2022 - Sponsor
Tech Briefs Magazine - June 2022 - Band1
Tech Briefs Magazine - June 2022 - Band2
Tech Briefs Magazine - June 2022 - Cov1
Tech Briefs Magazine - June 2022 - Cov2
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Tech Briefs Magazine - June 2022 - MD-Cov3
Tech Briefs Magazine - June 2022 - MD-Cov4
Tech Briefs Magazine - June 2022 - Sensor-Cov1
Tech Briefs Magazine - June 2022 - Sensor-Cov2
Tech Briefs Magazine - June 2022 - Sensor-1
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