Object-oriented design tools for supramolecular devices and biomedical nanotechnology

Stephen C. Lee, Khaustaub Bhalerao, Mauro Ferrari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Nanotechnology provides multifunctional agents for in vivo use that increasingly blur the distinction between pharmaceutical and medical devices. Realization of such therapeutic nanodevices requires multidisciplinary effort that is difficult for individual device developers to sustain, and identification of appropriate collaborations outside ones own field can itself be challenging. Further, as in vivo nanodevices become increasingly complex, their design will increasingly demand systems level thinking. System engineering tools such as object-oriented analysis, object-oriented design (OOA/D) and unified modeling language (UML) are applicable to nanodevices built from biological components, help logically manage the knowledge needed to design them, and help identify useful collaborative relationships for device designers. We demonstrate the utility of these systems engineering tools by reverse engineering an existing molecular device (the bacmid molecular cloning system) using them, and illustrate how object-oriented approaches identify fungible components (objects) in nanodevices in a way that facilitates design of families of related devices, rather than single inventions. We also explore the utility of object-oriented approaches for design of another class of therapeutic nanodevices, vaccines. While they are useful for design of current nanodevices, the power of systems design tools for biomedical nanotechnology will become increasingly apparent as the complexity and sophistication of in vivo nanosystems increases. The nested, hierarchical nature of object-oriented approaches allows treatment of devices as objects in higher-order structures, and so will facilitate concatenation of multiple devices into higher-order, higher-function nanosystems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)110-123
Number of pages14
JournalAnnals of the New York Academy of Sciences
StatePublished - 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Nanobiological
  • Nanobiotechnology
  • Nanodevice
  • Nanotechnology
  • Nanotherapeutic
  • Object-oriented design, OOD
  • Systems engineering
  • Therapeutic platform
  • Unified modeling language, UML

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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