Published: 
30 May 2019

We’d like to congratulate Dr Catriona Bruce, the head of our Patent Analytics Hub, for the publication of her essay on cybernetic cells by the UK Innovation Foundation Nesta. Catriona was one of the finalists in Nesta’s Tipping Point Prize, describing the work of the Australian Cell Design Network. This Australian led international network of experts is setting up responsible research and innovation frameworks for the future of human cell engineering.


This essay explores how ‘designer’ human cells will play a critical role in the future of medicine - using cells that could dispense medicine when needed and communicate with the outside world. This technology will involve building new stem cells, that can be manipulated on demand, and a suite of tools to control cell functions. To build this toolkit, researchers will bring together expertise in molecular design, genome engineering, and stem cell engineering to create stem cells that can respond to light, sound, magnetic fields, or environmental materials on demand.


These cybernetic cells will be programmed to adapt to, sense, and act on their environment, meaning they can direct the body’s own machinery to tackle disease. They could communicate with devices outside the body, blurring the boundaries between what we conventionally think of as biology and technology. With no precedent in nature, these cells will challenge our assumptions of the very nature of humanity.


This is one example of IP Australia’s role in ensuring that Australians benefit from great ideas. To find out more about our work in supporting Australian research, including recent patent data analytics, please visit the Patent Analytics Hub’s webpage. 


Dr Catriona Bruce is the head of the Patent Analytics Hub. A scientist by training, she has also worked at the BBSRC Institute for Animal Health, the John Curtin School of Medical Research at the Australian National University, and at the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator.