Nature Reviews Bioengineering

Things are only impossible until they’re not

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Engineering is the science of problem solving, making ‘impossible’ ideas possible in the real world (to paraphrase the great Jean-Luc Picard). Bioengineers, in particular, develop tools, materials and devices to mimic, modify or control biological systems, with the aim to positively impact health, the environment and society. Building on fundamental biological and medical knowledge, materials science, physics, chemistry, nanotechnology, computer science and engineering, bioengineers have enabled the design of life-saving concepts, such as artificial organs, advanced prosthetics, surgical robots, point-of-care diagnostic tests and vaccines. For example, lateral flow tests, which rose to fame in the form of home pregnancy tests, and have recently experienced a renaissance in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, as well as lipid nanoparticle-mRNA vaccines, which have become the major (only?) instrument to get us out of the pandemic, showcase the incredible value of bioengineering for addressing key medical and societal needs.

Bioengineers also develop platforms for fundamental biology studies, such as organs-on-chips, genetic engineering and imaging tools, as well as high-throughput techniques, which have not only contributed to a better understanding of biological and disease mechanisms, but also became valued components of the drug development pipeline. Beyond biomedicine, bioengineers have teamed up with synthetic biologists, environmental scientists, biotechnologists and materials scientists to tackle one of the most critical global issues of our times – climate change. Emerging concepts, such as bioplastics and engineered living materials, will play a major role in the development of sustainable materials and in addressing environmental pollution. Indeed, the bioengineering field has become a key enabler of medical breakthroughs, new biological insights and sustainability concepts, which is reflected in many publications with high impact. And from January 2023, the bioengineering community will have a dedicated Nature Reviews journal – Nature Reviews Bioengineering.

Bioengineering is inherently interdisciplinary, which makes it both exciting and challenging to communicate, as it spans distant scientific areas ‒ from electrical engineering and immunology, to plant physiology and clinical sciences. Each discipline with its own terminology and language. At Nature Reviews Bioengineering, we will work with our authors to develop Review and Perspective articles that are accessible to a broad readership – don’t worry we will help you with this, editing each article line-by-line to ensure it is clear and understandable across fields. The aim is to bring communities together and foster new collaborations, doing the interdisciplinary nature of bioengineering justice, and focusing on application and translation. Importantly, we would like our authors to also discuss commercial, ethical, legal and societal aspects of bioengineering research, and the translation of bioengineering advances in low-resource settings. After all, we want our field to have global impact, and therefore, we need to consider various environments, settings and infrastructures – beyond a fancy bioengineering lab.

In addition to Reviews, Perspectives and Comments, we will also publish Down to Business articles - short comment-type articles by experts discussing how they took their research all the way from the idea to a product, including regulatory and intellectual property considerations, scale-up, industry collaborations, manufacturing and application, outlining the scientific and technical challenges associated with technology transfer. These articles will serve as a guideline for the translation of bioengineering research, pointing out potential hurdles and providing ideas and solutions on the road to the clinic or market.

The scope of Nature Reviews Bioengineering is built on three main pillars: biomedicine and health, environment and biology, and devices and technology. Of course, these categories are fluid, as is the field itself. Broadly, we will cover everything from cell and tissue engineering, artificial organs, implants, medical devices, vaccines, delivery technologies, diagnostics and nanomedicine, to synthetic biology, plant biotechnology, bioreactors, applied microbiology and bioplastics, to wearable devices, bioelectronics, robotics, assistive devices, microfluidics and machine learning.

Our scope is broad ‒ but key is the focus on application. We are looking for articles that discuss the engineering achievements and challenges, with an eye towards translation into real-world scenarios.

Importantly, Nature Reviews Bioengineering strives to be an inclusive journal. We seek to amplify diverse voices and provide a platform for discussion, debate and solution. Whatever the bioengineering community cares about, is concerned about or excited about – we want to discuss this in our pages, in the form of Editorials, Comments and Q&As. The journal will not only publish excellent and inspiring bioengineering Reviews, but also reflect the diversity of our field. However, when it comes to equity in scientific publishing, we know that papers authored by scholars from historically excluded groups have long been systematically under-cited. To make a first step towards a more equitable bioengineering community, we will encourage our authors to include a citation diversity statement, acknowledging disparities in citations, and demonstrating effort to reference relevant papers in a manner that is equitable in terms of racial, ethnic, gender and geographical representation. This shall be the first baby step on the way to reducing citation bias and disparities in scientific visibility.

Bioengineering has the means to positively impact global health, the environment and our society. Our hope is to be part of this journey, and we will open our pages to the bioengineering community and beyond in January 2023.

Christine Horejs

Chief Editor, Nature Reviews Bioengineering