The study of biology at the molecular level may point to new directions in materials design and construction — not just mimicking biomolecular systems, but actually using biomolecules themselves to construct novel materials. Indeed, by taking this new fabrication route, significant and path-breaking achievements may be made by materials scientists and engineers.This article is intended to serve as a roadmap, linking basic molecular biology to materials science and engineering (MSE), so that more and more engineers can begin to integrate molecular biology into their work. Achievements of DNA- and protein-based engineering will not be reviewed. Rather, readers are directed to two recent reviews1,2. Instead, I will focus on examples of the basic, as well as practical, knowledge of molecular biology that might be useful to material scientists. Emphasis will be placed on ‘materials building blocks’ and ‘molecular biology tool kits’ that can be employed for new materials design and synthesis.

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DOI: 10.1016/S1369-7021(03)01130-1