Biology focused design. engineered for Automation.

Design. Manufacture. Automate. Analyze.

Johnson Digital Bioengineering LAb


Our lab is located in the  Institute for Quantitative Health Science and Engineering at Michigan State University in East Lansing, MI. We are affiliated with the Departments of Pharmacology & Toxicology and Biomedical Engineering.

What we DO

We leverage the versitility of digital manufacturing to construct New Approach Models (NAMs) for drug and chemical testing.  

Why we do IT

Our goal is to develop strategies and technologies that lead to the prevention of birth defects and disease in vulnerable populations.

The Complement-ARIE Challenge prize winners have been announced!

We just won a $50,000 prize!!!  

Jacob Reynolds (BME) helped drive the proposal based in part on his research. The Prize Competition offered $1,000,000 in total prize money to diverse teams with ideas for new ways of using NAMs to conduct basic research, uncover disea se mechanisms, and translate knowledge into products and practice. Concepts from the winning entries of the Complement-ARIE prize challenge will be incorporated into the ongoing planning process for the NIH Common Fund’s Complement-ARIE program. Sudin Bhattacharya from IQ @ MSU also collaborated on the proposal.   We are investing the prize money in our own research to help prevent chemical induced birth defects.   

Student Rotations

Incoming 2024 BMS and BME PhD candidates, contact us about rotations 

Currently funded projects are in modeling human orofacial development and teratogenicity, endocrine disruption and in vitro pharmacokinetics and can focus on biology, engineering or both. Rotation projects  typically touch on all aspects of the lab, that is making an existing device as well as constructing something new (the new should be fun),Repeating an experiment that worked and testing a new hypothesis.  Don’t worry, we’ll guide you along the way!   Send an email with student rotation in the header and we can discuss a potential rotation. 

Latest News

Check out some of the  latest news from the lab!

Dhruv Singh presents at the MSU UURAF research symposium

Dhruv presented his latest work on a new process in the lab to manufacture commercial quality microplate based devices to help reduce and replace animal testing methods. The presentation was[…]

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April 19, 2024 0

Micromachining Workshop in Biodesign BME841

Thanks to Jacob Reynolds, Dhruv Singh and Vimbai Chado for help with the Micromachining Workshop we host for the Biodesign BME841 students. We cover the basics of computer animated design,[…]

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February 1, 2024 0

Lab fun

We wrapped up a few student rotations (Parker and Congying) and celebrated a great 2023 by going bowling.

Read more
December 8, 2023 0


Focus on the biology.  We engineer devices specifically to phenocopy the normal biological or disease process we aim to study.


A closed loop.  Rapid prototyping via digital manufacturing in-house allows rapid testing and iteration in design that speeds development.


We like to keep it simple, but biology is complex.  We leverage automation to increase throughput and identify robust physiological conditions.


Rigor meets discovery.   High-content imaging enables standard analyses and empowes discovery through deep-learning and artificial intelligence.

Biology driven design.

Intercellular signaling drives early development.  Early organization of the embryo is orchestrated by just a few pathways including the Wnt, Tgf-B, SHH, FGF, and Notch pathways which often act as a means of cell/matrix or cell to cell communication.  We engineered a device to phenocopy the developing facial processes (epithelial cells overlayed onto 3D mesenchymal cells)  since these are sensitive to both genetic and environmental insults during development leading to facial clefting (cleft lip/palate).  The resulting microtissues show critical similarities to tissue sections from the developing palate.  More importantly, they support the spatial signaling interactions that are sensitive to teratogenic insults.  We hope to use these microtissues to identity genetic risk-factors and chemical  exposure combinations that may cause this birth defect in every 700 live births.

Digital manufacturing fuels innovation.

We developed a novel digital manufacturing process dubbed “microplate micromilling” that integrates microfluidic channels and features directly into standard commercially available polystyrene cell culture plates (48, 96, 384, 1536 etc.). This platform is used to generate tractable, adaptable, high content and throughput compatible intercellular signaling models.


High-content confocal imaging identifies cellular heterogeneity

Image of Ishikawa cells imaged at 10x show hetergeneous cells in simple monoculture.  Our high-content imaging pipeline streamlines imaging, image segmentation to identify individual cells and quantification of stains within each indifidual cell.   The imaging cytometry work generates millions of datapoints to feed AI based learning and other quantitative analyses.


Imaged with 10X objective on our Yokogawa CQ-1 high-content confocal imager.


Cells stained with Hoechst (nuclei/blue), wheat germ aggluten (membrane/green), nile red (lipid) and CellRox (reactive oxygen/fucia).

Postdoc postions in the Institute for Quantitative Health Science and Engineering @ Michigan State University  


See a full list of publications on Pubmed using the link below or check out a couple recent articles on the right. 

My Bibliography

Connect with us!

Brian P. Johnson PhD                 1- 517- 353–2541      

 775 Woodlot Dr   Rm 3315 IQ Bioengineering Building     East Lansing, MI 48824

Rm 3315 IQ-Bioengineering   775 Woodlot Dr     East Lansing, MI  48824
[Contact info above. ]