Fluigi: an end-to-end software workflow for microfluidic design
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One goal of synthetic biology is to design and build genetic circuits in living cells for a range of applications with implications in health, materials, and sensing. Computational design methodologies allow for increased performance and reliability of these circuits. Major challenges that remain include increasing the scalability and robustness of engineered biological systems and streamlining and automating the synthetic biology workflow of “specify-design-build-test.” I summarize the advances in microfluidic technology, particularly microfluidic large scale integration, that can be used to address the challenges facing each step of the synthetic biology workflow for genetic circuits. Microfluidic technologies allow precise control over the flow of biological content within microscale devices, and thus may provide more reliable and scalable construction of synthetic biological systems. However, adoption of microfluidics for synthetic biology has been slow due to the expert knowledge and equipment needed to fabricate and control devices. I present an end-to-end workflow for a computer-aided-design (CAD) tool, Fluigi, for designing microfluidic devices and for integrating biological Boolean genetic circuits with microfluidics. The workflow starts with a ``netlist" input describing the connectivity of microfluidic device to be designed, and proceeds through placement, routing, and design rule checking in a process analogous to electronic computer aided design (CAD). The output is an image of the device for printing as a mask for photolithography or for computer numerical control (CNC) machining. I also introduced a second workflow to allocate biological circuits to microfluidic devices and to generate the valve control scheme to enable biological computation on the device. I used the CAD workflow to generate 15 designs including gradient generators, rotary pumps, and devices for housing biological circuits. I fabricated two designs, a gradient generator with CNC machining and a device for computing a biological XOR function with multilayer soft lithography, and verified their functions with dye. My efforts here show a first end-to-end demonstration of an extensible and foundational microfluidic CAD tool from design concept to fabricated device. This work provides a platform that when completed will automatically synthesize high level functional and performance specifications into fully realized microfluidic hardware, control software, and synthetic biological wetware.