Joint Associate Professor of Bioengineering and Chemical Engineering
Weyerhaeuser Endowed Professor
Phone: (206) 543-5961
Office: Benson 353

Cole DeForest

We are developing a suite of user-programmable biomaterials that can be used to understand basic cell function, engineer functional tissue, deliver functional therapeutics, and cure disease.
User-Programmable Biomaterials for Directing Dynamic Stem Cell Fate
Biomolecular and Tissue Engineering
Controlled Delivery of Therapeutics to Treat Disease
Tool Development for Enhanced Proteomic Studies

While the potential for biomaterial-based strategies to improve and extend the quality of human health through tissue regeneration and the treatment of disease continues to grow, the majority of current strategies rely on outdated technology initially developed and optimized for starkly different applications. Therefore, the DeForest Group seeks to integrate the governing principles of rational design with fundamental concepts from material science, synthetic chemistry, and stem cell biology to conceptualize, create, and exploit next-generation materials to address a variety of health-related problems. We are currently interested in the development of new classes of user-programmable hydrogels whose biochemical and biophysical properties can be tuned in time and space over a variety of scales. Our work relies heavily on the utilization of cytocompatible bioorthogonal chemistries, several of which can be initiated with light and thereby confined to specific sub-volumes of a sample. By recapitulating the dynamic nature of the native tissue through 4D control of the material properties, these synthetic environments are utilized to probe and better understand basic cell function as well as to engineer complex heterogeneous tissue.

Ph.D. in Chemical & Biological Engineering, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, Certificate in Molecular Biophysics, Doctoral work under Kristi Anseth, 2011
B.S.E. in Chemical Engineering (Magna Cum Laude), Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, Concentration in Bioengineering and Biotechnology, Certificate in Material Science and Engineering, Certificate in Engineering Biology, 2006

California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA – March 2012 – November 2013
Postdoctoral research scholar under Prof. David Tirrell, Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering

Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA R35), 2020, National Institutes of Health

Young Investigator Award, 2020, Society for Biomaterials

College of Engineering Junior Faculty Award, 2020, University of Washington

NAE Frontiers of Engineering Invited Participant, 2019, National Academy of Engineering

Faculty Appreciation for Career Education & Training Award, 2019, University of Washington

Emerging Investigator Award, 2019, Royal Society of Chemistry, Biomaterials Science

Early Career Award in Cancer Research, 2018, Safeway and the Cancer Consortium

35 Under 35 Award, 2017, American Institute of Chemical Engineers

Young Investigator Presentation Award, 2017, Biomaterials & Tissue Engineering GRC

Emerging Investigator Award, 2017, Royal Society of Chemistry, J. Materials Chemistry B, 2017

Young Investigator Award, Polymeric Materials: Science & Eng. Division, 2017, ACS

Early Career Development Award (CAREER), 2017, National Science Foundation

Presidential Distinguished Teaching Award, 2016, University of Washington

Jaconette L. Tietze Young Scientist Award, 2015, The John H. Tietze Foundation

Commute Champion Award, 2015, University of Washington

Presidential Distinguished Teaching Award Nominee, 2015, University of Washington

Ruth L. Kirschstein Postdoctoral Fellow (declined), 2014, National Institutes of Health

Rising Star / Student Fellow Award, 2013, Biomedical Engineering Society

DSM Polymer Technology Award, 2011, DSM and American Chemical Society

Excellence in Graduate Polymer Research Award, 2010, American Chemical Society

Graduate Student Research Gold Award, 2009, Materials Research Society

Molecular Biophysics Training Grant, 2007 – 2009, National Institutes of Health

Biomolecular GAANN Fellowship, 2007 – 2010, US Dept. of Education

Outstanding Student Achievement Award, 2009, Society for Biomaterials

First-Year Graduate Research Fellowship, 2006, University of Colorado

Material Science Student of the Year, 2006, Princeton University

Sigma Xi Chemical Engineering Book Award, 2006, Princeton University

Graduate Research Fellowship Honorable Mention, 2006 & 2007, National Science Foundation

Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society Induction, 2005, Tau Beta Pi

Most Approachable Resident Advisor, 2005, Princeton University

Valedictorian, 2002, Boulder High School, CO

BIOEN 511: Biomaterials Seminar

Batalov, B., Stevens, K.R. & DeForest, C.A. Photopatterned Biomolecule Immobilization to Guide Three-Dimensional Cell Fate in Natural Protein-based Hydrogels. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 118, e2014194118 (2021).

Shadish, J.A., Strange, A.C. & DeForest, C.A. Genetically Encoded Photocleavable Linkers for Patterned Protein Release from Biomaterials. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 141, 15619-15625 (2019).

Shadish, J.A., Benuska, G.M. & DeForest, C.A. Bioactive Site-Specifically Modified Proteins for 4D Patterning of Gel Biomaterials. Nature Materials, 18, 1005-1014 (2019).

Badeau, B.A., Comerford, M.P., Arakawa, C.K., Shadish, J.A. & DeForest, C.A. Engineered Modular Biomaterial Logic Gates for Environmentally Triggered Therapeutic Delivery. Nature Chemistry, 10, 251-258 (2018).

Ruskowitz, E.R. & DeForest, C.A. Photoresponsive Biomaterials for Targeted Drug Delivery and 4D Cell Culture. Nature Reviews Materials, 3, 17087 (2018).

Arakawa, C.K., Badeau, B.A., Zheng, Y. & DeForest, C.A. Multicellular Vascularized Engineered Tissues through User-Programmable Biomaterial Photodegradation. Advanced Materials, 29, 1703156 (2017).

DeForest, C.A.* & Tirrell, D.A. A Photoreversible Protein-Patterning Approach for Guiding Stem Cell Fate in Three-Dimensional Gels. Nature Materials, 14, 523-531 (2015). *Co-Corresponding Authorship

DeForest, C.A. & Anseth, K.S. Photoreversible Patterning of Biomolecules within Click-based Hydrogels. Angewandte Chemie International Edition, 51, 1816-1819 (2012).

DeForest, C.A. & Anseth, K.S. Cytocompatible Click-based Hydrogels with Dynamically-Tunable Properties through Orthogonal Photoconjugation and Photocleavage Reactions. Nature Chemistry, 3, 925-931 (2011).

DeForest, C.A., Polizzotti, B.D. & Anseth, K.S. Sequential Click Reactions for Synthesizing and Patterning 3D Cell Microenvironments. Nature Materials 8, 659-664 (2009).

In the News