Elective – Biotech Design

BME590 Biotechnology Design – Fall 2018

Biotech Design is a graduate-level biomedical engineering (BME) class taught by Professor Michael Lynch at Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering. This class provides conceptual knowledge and practical lab experience for implementing and creating biotechnologies. Half of the course is dedicated to learning about the design process of creating new biomedical innovations, such as project scoping, process design basis, acquiring funding, IP, etc. Half of the course is dedicated to developing tangible skills to execute these projects, including literature research and lab techniques.

For this class, my team and I began the process of designing a novel method of biologic drug delivery. (Disclaimer: for the purposes of any future IP, I will not disclose the exact details of what we are working on.)

Graphical schematic of our project design. Important components for IP redacted

There is currently a lot of research being conducted into how the human microbiome influences an individual’s health. My group and I are exploring whether it is possible to deliver medicine through the microbiome and improve health outcomes. For example, Activia, the probiotic yogurt, markets itself by claiming that the special bifidobacteria strain in the yogurt helps with digestion. We are also trying to develop a unique strain of bifidobacteria to help with colon cancer.

Why is this class part of my I&E Certificate?

This class is not part of the typical Innovation and Entrepreneurship curriculum. I specifically petitioned to use this class as my I&E elective. As you may know, I am a biomedical engineering major at Duke, so I am particularly interested in biomedical applications of technology.

The market opportunity for our product. This represents the intersection of my I&E Certificate and my BME degree

When I first joined the I&E program, I wanted to be able to combine my interest in the field of medical engineering with the entrepreneurial world. I am specifically interested in new innovations, new applications of technology that can interface with people to cure disease, or as wearable technology, or as health bioinformatics. I found that Biotech Design was a perfect fit for these interests. I had the opportunity to learn how biomedical innovations are brought to life.

As my team of undergraduate students soon discovered, biotechnology is difficult to develop. Throughout the semester we had a few roadblocks in developing our project idea: from changing ideas, to discovering that our ideas weren’t feasible, to our limited knowledge.

Biomedical innovation is not easy. We’ve had many failed experiments such as this contaminated cell culture plate

Even so, this winding process itself provided us with opportunities to learn which we cannot get in a traditional classroom. We were in charge of our own design process; we did all our own research; and we enjoyed working with each other to create something new and exciting.

Our cells finally grew!



I would like to include my group’s final presentation and final report from this semester, however we plan to continue working on this project and we don’t want people to steal our idea. Therefore, I will have to postpone sharing these artifacts.