20.380J | Spring 2010 | Undergraduate

Biological Engineering Design


Course Meeting Times

Two sessions / week, 3 hours per session: 1st hour recitation format, 2nd and 3rd hours lecture/seminar format



In a more general sense, this course is a capstone in the biological engineering degree program, synthesizing and applying the knowledge gained in many prior classes, especially the sequence 20.310J, 20.320, and 20.330J.

Course Goals

The goal of this class is to guide students, working in small project teams, in the design of novel technologies for analysis of complex biological systems. The class emphasizes making practical decisions within a research project – a triage of what can be done given constraints, in particular balancing time vs. doing the desired science while keeping cost in mind.

The topic focus of this class will vary from year to year. This version looks at inflammation underlying many diseases, specifically its role in cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.


  • Rigorous Design – Be creative, think out of the box, develop and protect intellectual property
  • Societal Need (Market) – Pick challenging opportunities for which an unmet need exists and is quantifiable; balance commercial success with altruism
  • Practical Pre-clinical and Clinical Analysis – How does your device/drug/product work, how will you test it?
  • Manufacturing – How will you make it? Can it be made at reasonable cost?

This is a CI-M (Communications Intensive in the Major) subject. The communications portion focuses on professional skills like project management, communications in teams, peer review, and writing grant proposals.

Coursework and Grading

Following the two-dimensional matrix organization structure commonly found in consulting companies, each student will be placed in one Disease Group team (e.g. cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular) and one Business Speciality Group (e.g. clinical description of disease, mathematical modeling, in vitro studies).

Coursework grades are mostly based on team project work. There is one exam at mid-term, based on the six papers used for the initial technical paper presentations.

Technical paper presentation 10%
Mid-term exam 15%
Recitation: design pitch + group interim progress reports 25%
Peer review of draft final report 10%
Final report 20%
Final presentation 10%
Class participation 10%


1. Introduction to the course All  
Background: Inflammation in healthy immune response Irvine
2. Background: Inflammation and cancer Irvine  
3. Background: Inflammation in obesity and diabetes White  
4. Background: Inflammation in cardiovascular disease Essigmann  
5. Communications review 1 CI-M staff  
6. Background: Molecular warfare in inflammation Essigmann  
Background: Network response to inflammatory stress White
Workshop: S-nitrosylation effects on cell networks; DNA-Damage signaling; and ’the billion dollar question’: early detection of disease White
7. Technical paper team presentations    
8. Technical paper team presentations (cont.)    
9. Example final presentation Prior 20.380 student  
10. Midterm exam   Technical report peer reviews due
11. Design pitches    
12. Design pitches (cont.)    
13. Design pitches (cont.)    
14. Workshop: Patents Guest: Robert Langer  
15. Workshop: Regulatory agencies and clinical trials Essigmann  
Project work  
16. Project work (cont.)    
17. Communications review 2 Banuazizi  
Workshop: Signaling networks White
18. Workshop: Drug targeting Irvine  
Workshop: Drug carriers Irvine
19. Workshop: Immuno-regulatory strategies Irvine  
20. Peer reviews   Paper drafts due
21. Peer reviews (cont.)    
22. Peer reviews (cont.)    
23. Project work    
24. Project work (cont.)   Final paper due
25. Project work (cont.)    
26. Final presentations