Bio-hacking scientist Andrew Pelling selected as a TED Fellow

Posted on Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Andrew Pelling holds an apple slice in a petry dish to his eye

Professor Andrew Pelling, cross-appointed to the Department of Biology and the Department of Physics, 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 in February 2016 who will share ideas worth spreading from the TED stage in Vancouver.

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.

"“It's a remarkable opportunity,"” says Professor Pelling. “"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.

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 faires, coffee shops and hackathons.

About the TED Fellows program

The TED Fellows program brings together young innovators from around the world and across disciplines, who display both outstanding achievement and exemplary character, to ignite their careers. The program offers fellows full participation in the TED or TEDGlobal Conference, a two-day pre-conference of workshops and activities, a biannual fellows retreat, ongoing professional coaching and mentoring through the SupporTED program, dedicated PR coaching and active participation in the TED community, including the global TED Fellows network. The TED Fellows program now includes 397 fellows from 86 countries.

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