A Message from the MBI Director, Rong Li

From bacteria to humans, biology is grounded in mechanical and dynamical processes, whereby the chemistry and physics within cells and multi-cellular structures are integrated to bring about complex and highly regulated functions. Mechanobiology, as an emerging discipline, focuses on the forces that are essential for the morphogenesis, growth, and movement of cells, tissues and organs, and how these forces decline during the aging process. With a quantitative and holistic understanding of how mechanical functions are ensured during normal development and healthy aging and how they are maladapted in disease, we hope to develop new paradigms to more effectively protect and regenerate organ functions and to better treat human diseases.

Ten years after its inception, MBI has developed an effective model for interdisciplinary research that harnesses the expertise and methodologies from diverse fields of science and engineering. As a result, many discoveries and breakthroughs have been made in the areas of cell and tissue development, mechanosignal transduction, and nanotechnology-guided cell and tissue engineering. Integral to this success is the unique infrastructure established at MBI, in particular, the state-of-the-art core facilities for diverse technologies needed to interrogate biomechanical processes, and an efficient open-lab model for students, fellows and other researchers to work together on a daily basis. Today, MBI is poised to take an exciting next step into the second decade, with emerging new research directions and a fast growing scientific team.

A major challenge in future biology is how to comprehend the enormous complexity underlying biological systems, and how to translate this knowledge to improve biomedical technologies and medicine. Even in a tiny cell, tens of thousands of different molecules interact with each other in space and time to produce the signals and forces that orchestrate complex functions. Cells and organisms are also highly adaptive to environmental changes, and this ability is linked to the variability, as well as robustness, of biological systems. As mechanical behaviors of cells and tissue are emergent but measurable readouts of complex molecular actions, the research at MBI will shed light on the fundamental design principles of biological systems and how these principles might govern the progression of disease and the response of disease to intervention. These insights should ultimately be useful to achieving precision medicine in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases.

With the strong and continuous support from the Ministry of Education and the National University of Singapore, MBI expects substantial growth in the next five years. We welcome talented investigators in biomedical sciences, engineering, mathematics, physics, chemistry, and computer science to join us on this exciting journey.