Bio-hacking scientist Andrew Pelling is a new TED Fellow

Posted on Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Professor Andrew Pelling peers through the hole of an apple slice in a petri dish.

Professor Andrew Pelling peers through an apple slice in a petri dish. Photo: Peter Thornton.

uOttawa professor Andrew Pelling has been selected as a TED Fellow, making him one of two Canadians to join a class of 21 change-makers from around the world who will share their ideas from the TED stage in Vancouver in February 2016.

“It’s a remarkable opportunity,” says Professor Pelling, who is cross-appointed to the Department of Biology and the Department of Physics. “TED fellows are thought leaders and change-makers from incredibly diverse backgrounds who challenge convention and work in the spaces between disciplines. I’m both honoured and humbled to be part of such an impressive group of people.”

As Canada Research Chair in Experimental Cell Mechanics at the University of Ottawa, Professor Pelling heads up a highly exploratory space where scientists, engineers and artists work alongside each other in a culture of cross-disciplinary creativity. Known for pushing cellular systems to artificial limits, the Pelling Lab for Biophysical Manipulation uses non-genetic and non-pharmacological approaches in the pursuit of creating artificial tissues and organs that do not exist naturally.

Andrew Pelling.

Photo: Peter Thornton.

A study published in PLOS ONE presents Professor Pelling’s work, which resulted in the creation of specimens of apples containing human cells. This “physical biohacking” involves re-purposing apples to create a supporting matrix for living, artificial human tissues—without the use of genetic engineering and instead relying on standard cell culture techniques practised worldwide. Not only is Professor Pelling’s talent for disrupting traditional scientific approaches leading to low-cost, open-source materials for next-generation medical innovations, but his boundary-defying work is equally at home in art galleries, maker fairs, coffee shops and hackathons.

Founded in 2009, the TED Fellows program brings together extraordinary young people to join the global TED community, creating a platform to drive awareness of their ambitious, cross-disciplinary work. Each year, a group of innovators is chosen to attend the TED or TEDGlobal Conference and partake in an exclusive pre-conference, where they can share ideas and engage in skill-building workshops. The fellows also give a TED talk at the conference, providing them with the opportunity to share their vision and passion for their work.

The TED Fellows program now includes 397 fellows from 86 countries.

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