Living Therapeutics: The Next Frontier of Precision Medicine

Vince W. Kelly, Benjamin K. Liang, Shannon J. Sirk

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Modern medicine has long studied the mechanism and impact of pathogenic microbes on human hosts, but has only recently shifted attention toward the complex and vital roles that commensal and probiotic microbes play in both health and dysbiosis. Fueled by an enhanced appreciation of the human–microbe holobiont, the past decade has yielded countless insights and established many new avenues of investigation in this area. In this review, we discuss advances, limitations, and emerging frontiers for microbes as agents of health maintenance, disease prevention, and cure. We highlight the flexibility of microbial therapeutics across disease states, with special consideration for the rational engineering of microbes toward precision medicine outcomes. As the field advances, we anticipate that tools of synthetic biology will be increasingly employed to engineer functional living therapeutics with the potential to address longstanding limitations of traditional drugs.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3184-3201
Number of pages18
JournalACS synthetic biology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 18 2020


  • living therapeutics
  • microbial engineering
  • microbiota
  • synthetic biology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (miscellaneous)
  • Biomedical Engineering


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