ME Assistant Professor Elisa Franco Receives DOE and DARPA Grants Totaling Nearly $1 Million

Mechanical engineering assistant professor Elisa Franco

ME Assistant Professor Elisa Franco has been awarded Department of Energy(DOE) and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) grants that total nearly $1 million.

The DOE has awarded a $599,000 collaborative grant over three years for the project titled “Programmable dynamic self-assembly of DNA nanostructures”. The project, which is in collaboration with the Schulman group at Johns Hopkins University, will develop fundamental knowledge about programming and controlling material growth and reconfiguration using feedback reaction networks. This research will help elucidate natural, complex mechanisms of biomaterial adaptation, and identify rational methods for producing smart, responsive materials.

Franco was also awarded a $371,000 collaborative DARPA grant over 18 months. The project, “Achieving closed-loop RNA-based PID control with a cell-free testbed”, is a five-person PI team led by the University of Minnesota that was awarded a total of $2.1 million. Research aims to develop a new approach to build PID controllers using RNA molecules and promises to transform current methods to engineer cellular responses to environmental factors and disease, and could have an impact on biomedicine, healthcare, and food industry. The RNA PID approach will be tested on a fast, high-throughput testbed in vitro.

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