Synthetic Biology

Introducing the Wet Lab Accelerator - Your Robotic Lab Assistant

If you work in a wet lab and need an assistant you should try out the Wet Lab Accelerator! The Wet Lab Accelerator is a tool for researchers working in synthetic biology and virology. The Bio/Nano group at Autodesk Research is developing this tool in conjunction with their experiments and is sharing it with others in the community for testing and feedback.

Autodesk Research Wet Lab Accelerator

Working with an automated wet lab, like Transcriptic, it allows you to:

  • Design your robotic wet lab protocols using a visual UI — no coding or scripting required.
  • Start from scratch or use one of our templates to get started.
  • When you are ready to run your protocol, Wet Lab Accelerator generates the vendor-specific code and verifies it
  • Any issues are clearly highlighted so you can quickly find and correct them.
  • Seamlessly integrated with Transcriptic, our first automation partner, with more to come.
  • Set up each step of your protocol using graphical visualizations of your wet lab containers.
  • Often-used settings can be parameterized to ease running of variations on the same protocol
  • Interact with your results data through dynamic visualizations
Wet Lab Accelerator
The Wet Lab Accelerator has an easy-to-use UI that you can run from your web browser

If you like this tool, please share it with your friends and colleagues! You can also check out the Molecule Viewer for visualizing your data.


Hacking 3D Printed Cancer-Fighting Viruses

"I really wasn't expected to be called a Biohacker but I don't mind"

Autodesk Research Hacking 3d Printed Cancer Fighting Viruses

What a great way to start a presentation! Andrew Hessel is part of the Bio/Nano/Programmable Matter group at Autodesk Research and that is how he started his fascinating presentation at the WIRED2014 Conference. In his presentation, Andrew talks about how powerful cells are and how they form networks similar to LAN's (our organs and tissues) and WAN's (our bodies).

Human Cell Autodesk Research Wired
A human cell is the most powerful and complex machine in the known universe. It runs on sugar and lasts a long time.
Chromosomes Autodesk Research Wired
This is what the program looks like for our bio computers

From this foundation he goes on to share how the maker movement is coming to biology. Andrew's ultimate goal with his work is to bring down the price of drug discovery and make more medicine available to all.

Autodesk Makerspace Pier 9
Autodesk's Makerspace at Pier 9 in San Francisco
Autodesk Life Sciences Laboratory
Autodesk has a Life Sciences laboratory as part of the Makerspace at Pier 9
Autodesk Research Bio and DNA Printers
One can now 3D print cells and DNA

With the landscape set, Andrew begins to talk about fighting cancer with 3D printed viruses. You can create a really weak virus that our body can fight yet at the same time this virus can hack the cancer cells, using the cancer cells to create more viruses to kill the other cancer cells. We call these oncolytic viruses.

Autodesk Research Bioprinting
A synthetic virus designed on a computer and printed in the lab

Now that he has created a virus he will be working on a more specific cancer-fighting virus. You can watch the full video below and learn more about this important work.

At the beginning of the video, Andrew shows an interactive tool created by the Health Sciences group at the University of Utah to illustrate the scale at which he works. It is available to the public to learn from and explore.   


Pictures from Autodesk University 2014

Here are a couple pictures of things the Autodesk Research team is talking about at Autodesk University. There's one more chance to come by the booth and find out more today.

Autodesk Research at Autodesk University

Autodesk Research Bicycle Frame Autodesk University

Autodesk Research Draco Autodesk University

Autodesk Research Cyborg Autodesk University


Autodesk Research Motorcycle Swingarm Autodesk University

Hy-Fi by The Living at Autodesk University

Here's where you can find us on the Autodesk University Exhibit Floor. We'll be there from 11:30 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.

Autodesk Research at Autodesk University

Also spotted in the Registration Hall:

Autodesk Research Autodesk University

For those not at Autodesk University, feel free to hit us up with some questions here!

Autodesk Research at Biofabricate Conference

Autodesk is sponsoring the Biofabricate conference in New York on December 4, 2014. This is the world’s first summit dedicated to biofabrication for future industrial and consumer products. Biofabrication comprises highly disruptive technologies enabling design and manufacturing to intersect with the building blocks of life. Computers can now read and write with DNA. This is a world where bacteria, yeast, fungi, algae and mammalian cells grow and shape sustainable new materials.


The event aims to answer a number of questions, including:

  • What is biodesign and biofabrication?
  • What are the enabling technologies?

Carlos Olguin from the Autodesk Research Bio/Nano/Programmable Matter group will speak in the Engineering Nature session followed by Danil Nagy of The Living speaking in the Cultured Technology session.


Research at Autodesk University 2014

Autodesk Research will be at Autodesk University 2014 and the theme this year is the Future of How Things are Made.


The Research team will be displaying some of their work and views on the future in the Exhibit Hall and you are cordially invited to come by, have a look, be inspired and share your feedback.

Autodesk Research at Autodesk University 2014

In the Exhibit Hall, you'll find people and displays for the following projects:

  • Cyborg
  • Draco and Kitty
  • Dreamcatcher
  • Hy-Fi


Autodesk is researching how design tools can be applied to synthetic biology, problems like fighting diseases, such as cancer, and improving drug discovery. 

Draco and Kitty

Answering the challenge to make animation (Draco) and authoring interactive content (Kitty) as easy as drawing, you not only see this in action but try out it out for yourself.


Showing that computers can help you design - not just produce design documentation - structurally sound and interesting pieces based on your specified goals.  


If you missed Hy-Fi on display at New York's MoMA, you can get a little taste of it at AU. Haven't heard of Hy-Fi or its creators The Living? Check out this video showing Hy-Fi and some of what The Living are doing. 

The Autodesk University Exhibit Hall will be open at the following times:

  • Tuesday, December 2: 6:30 p.m. - 9:30 p.m. for the Community Reception
  • Wednesday, December 3: 11:30 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.
  • Wednesday, December 3:  6:30 p.m. - 9:30 p.m. for the AUGI Reception
  • Thursday, December 4: 11:30 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.

Beyond the Exhibit Hall, there will be a number of presentations from Research team members:

Design Computation Symposium (AB7537)

The Design Computation Symposium will explore how advanced firms are bridging the gap between Computational Design and Building Information Modeling. Speaker topics will include both pragmatic aspects of digital design in daily practice, and forward thinking ideas and research. There are three main areas of interest under this theme:

  • Performance-based design, simulation and analysis.
  • Digital fabrication and construction processes.
  • Data Flow between real and digital environments.

The Future of Design: 3 Case Studies (LF8217)

Three experts from the Office of the CTO will talk about some unbelievable developments in the fields of synthetic biology, advanced MFG design, and infinite computing.

Capitalize on Fusion 360 for Digital Fabrication Workflows in Revit  (AB6016-L)

Would you like to get your designs out of the screen and into your hands? While 3D printing has become an exceedingly useful tool for demonstrating and prototyping design ideas, preparing files for 3D printing can be frustrating and time consuming. In this 90-minute course we will generate a complex surface in the Fusion 360 3D CAD design app that takes advantage of the T-Splines modeling technology. We will bring this model into Revit software where it will serve as the base for a panelized solid form using the Dynamo visual programming language extension. Once we have generated the complex parametric model to the required specifications, we will export the model to a STL file for 3D printing. A 2-step process of healing the mesh for optimal printing is described with the meshmixer tool and Project Miller. Finally, we will inspect the mesh and prepare it for output to various 3D printing platforms.


What Does Synthetic Biology Mean to Architects?

The Bio/Nano/Programmable Matter group at Autodesk Research is working with biology at the nanoscale level, to programatically define new matter. This is called synthetic biology and they envision this science being applied to designing products, buildings and cities.  

What if you could design a building that would grow itself?

Here's a short portion of a TED Talk from Mitchell Joachim looking at the possibilities.

Mitchell sets an interesting vision here. Maybe a meat house is a little extreme but it is certainly interesting to think that you could program what the R value of the walls of a house are and then you just have to plant it, add water and wait. Doors could work in much the same way as muscles in our bodies. And maybe the facade would heal itself after extreme weather.

Is it scientifically possible that a building could grow itself? How would that work?

To understand the science behind how this could work, the following video is very helpful. Essentially, DNA can be used in much the same way as any other programming language. The field of genetic engineering adds more of what we typically think of from engineering to create synthetic biology. As one could design a computer and a software program, one could also design a chair that would grow itself - the chair has the computer and the software program as part of itself. 

The idea of growing plants on Mars to prepare it for human habitation is interesting. Even more so if the trees were houses. Maybe we send rockets with payloads of seeds. While the plants are growing, we could be finalizing the technology to get people to follow.

As the cost of synthetic biology drops the potential for innovation increases 

This may sound far-fetched but it is possible to order your custom designed DNA over the internet in a similar manner and for a similar price to buying books today. Consider OpenTrons, a Kickstarter project for a biotech liquid handling robot for $2000. The 20th century has been called the century of physics for all of our advancements in things like space travel. The 21st century is being called the century of biology and the dropping prices of this technology will help to fuel that.

A prime example of this comes from Autodesk's own Andrew Hessel who created and "3D printed" a virus in two weeks for $1000. Don't worry - the virus was designed to infect E. coli and is not harmful to humans. 

E. coli is a common and easy bacteria to work with. Cambridge University created E. chromi that changes color based on the presence of an environmental toxin. The University of Texas and UCSF created E. coliroid that responds to red light and acts like a camera.  

What does synthetic biology mean for architects and other designers?

With this vision and base on the science set, we can hear how Andrew Hessel sees this working. This interview was conducted by the popular architecture website Arch Daily. In this video, Andrew speaks to a number of things, including these questions on the future of design:

  • What role do architects play?
  • What could architecture learn from genetic engineering?
  • What is the future of the architect?
  • What is the future of cities?

To quickly answer the questions from above, architects have a role as forward-looking thinkers. Architects design the world we live in and the tools that we need to survive in the world. As the world is changing rapidly through climate change and increasing populations our current way of life needs to evolve.

With these challenges and opportunities, you should now have a good idea of what the Bio/Nano/Programmable Matter group within Autodesk Research is trying to achieve with Project Cyborg. What kind of things would you like to create with this technology?

Autodesk Research Project Cyborg