CMOD Kickoff with Nigel Reuel

On June 15th, Nigel Reuel presented the first CMOD seminar in the Eyring Science Center on:

Closing the Loop: Protein and Cell Sensors for AI Guided Design and Control

Proteins are a significant class of bio-manufactured molecules used as therapies (e.g., antibodies, growth factors) and industrial catalysts (e.g., hydrolases).  Cell therapies (e.g., Car-T cells, stem cells) are another quickly growing class of bio-manufactured products.  In each case, the limitations of time and cost inherent in cell-based manufacturing dramatically reduces the ability to rapidly prototype, test, and optimize new protein and cell products. Recent work in our group has centered on the design of novel protein and cell sensors, coupled to cost-effective cell free expression techniques to improve the throughput of design, and provide the level of data necessary for machine guided (i.e., artificial intelligence) optimization and process control. This talk will cover new optical nanoprobes based on near-infrared, fluorescent single walled carbon nanotubes (SWNT) for screening hydrolytic enzyme activity, protein binding, and cell membrane disruption[1, 2]. It will also cover our group’s contributions to frugal cell-free techniques including high volume cell extract processing[3], extract improved for disulfide bond formation[4], anaerobic preconditioning of extract for improved yield especially in microtiter plates[5], and protocols for rapid use of gene fragments chemically synthesized[6]. The vision and progress for coupling these cell free techniques and nanoprobes with AI guided design and control will be shared. Finally, our advances in radio frequency based resonant sensors for suspended and adherent cells will be detailed. This final vignette will also give an opportunity to share our group’s interest and approach to technology transfer, by sharing the progress of Skroot Laboratory Inc.

BIO: Nigel F. Reuel is an Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering at Iowa State University (recently promoted to Associate Professor with tenure starting Aug ’21) and is a Jack R. and Carol A. Johnson Faculty Fellow and College of Engineering Entrepreneurial Fellow.  He received his PhD in Chemical Engineering at MIT in 2014 under the guidance of Prof. Michael Strano.  After graduating he attempted to commercialize his PhD work in a startup, Volvox Biologic Inc. (Boston), and then consulted at a larger life science tool company that obtained the startup IP (Maryland).  He then worked as a Research Investigator (PI) at DuPont’s historic Central Research and Development campus (Wilmington, DE) for two years on projects ranging from wireless power transfer, sensors, and precision agriculture.  He was then promoted as the corporate technology scout, where for 8 months he traveled to universities and incubators to find technology for the CTO office at DuPont. Although this was an interesting role at a large company, he quickly realized that making technology is more exciting than finding, and was pleased with the opportunity to come to ISU and become an entrepreneurial minded professor. Currently his group has 14 active technology disclosures to ISURF, one startup company offshoot (Skroot Laboratory Inc. which has hired two CBE alumni to date), and two more companies to be launched in 2021. Dr. Reuel’s work has been recognized by the NSF Career Award (2021), NIH Outstanding Early Investigator Award R35 (2020), 3M Nontennured Faculty Award and BMES Advanced Biomanufacturing Junior Investigator Award (2020).

See more at or follow @reuelgroup on Twitter


1. Kallmyer NE, Musielewicz J, Sutter J, Reuel NF (2018) Substrate-Wrapped, Single-Walled Carbon Nanotube Probes for Hydrolytic Enzyme Characterization. Analytical Chemistry, 90(8):5209–5216. //

2. Kallmyer NE, Abdennadher MS, Agarwal S, Baldwin-Kordick R, Khor RL, Kooistra AS, Peterson E, McDaniel MD, Reuel NF (2021) Inexpensive Near-Infrared Fluorimeters: Enabling Translation of nIR-Based Assays to the Field. Analytical Chemistry, 93(11):4800–4808. //

3. Dopp JL, Reuel NF (2018) Process optimization for scalable E. coli extract preparation for cell-free protein synthesis. Biochemical Engineering Journal, 138:21–28. //

4. Dopp JL, Reuel NF (2020) Simple, functional, inexpensive cell extract for in vitro prototyping of proteins with disulfide bonds. Biochemical Engineering Journal, 164:107790. //

5. Tamiev BD, Dopp JL, Reuel NF (2021) Anaerobic Conditioning of E. coli Cell Lysate for Enhanced In Vitro Protein Synthesis. ACS Synthetic Biology, 10(4):716–723. //

6. Dopp JL, Rothstein SM, Mansell TJ, Reuel NF (2019) Rapid prototyping of proteins: Mail order gene fragments to assayable proteins within 24 hours. Biotechnology and Bioengineering, 116(3):667–676. //

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