César de la Fuente is a presidential assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania, where he leads the Machine Biology Group. Previously, he pursued postdoctoral research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and earned a doctorate at the University of British Columbia. De la Fuente’s research goal is to use the power of machines to accelerate discoveries in biology and medicine. Specifically, he pioneered the development of the first computer-designed antibiotic with efficacy in animal models, demonstrating the application of AI for antibiotic discovery and helping to launch this emerging field. His lab has also been in the vanguard of developing computational methods for proteome mining, leading to the breakthrough discovery of a whole new world of antimicrobials. These efforts explored the human proteome as a source of antibiotics for the first time and have dramatically diminished the time needed to discover preclinical candidates, from years to hours. De la Fuente’s group was also the first to find therapeutic molecules in extinct organisms, launching the field of molecular de-extinction. Additional advances from his lab include designing algorithms for antibiotic discovery, reprogramming venoms into antimicrobials, creating novel resistance-proof antimicrobial materials, and inventing rapid, low-cost diagnostic devices for COVID-19 and other infections.
De la Fuente is a National Institutes of Health Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award investigator and has received recognition and research funding from numerous other groups. He has received over 60 national and international awards. He is an elected Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, becoming one of the youngest ever to be inducted. De la Fuente was recognized by MIT Technology Review as one of the world’s top innovators for “digitizing evolution to make better antibiotics.” He was selected as the inaugural recipient of the Langer Prize and as an American Chemical Society (ACS) Kavli Emerging Leader in Chemistry, an American Society for Microbiology (ASM) Distinguished Lecturer, Waksman Foundation Lecturer, and received the AIChE’s 35 Under 35 Award, the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers Young Investigator Award, and the ACS Infectious Diseases Young Investigator Award. He also received the Thermo Fisher Award, as well as the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Engineering in Medicine & Biology Society Academic Early Career Achievement Award “for the pioneering development of novel antibiotics designed using principles from computation, engineering, and biology.” Most recently, de la Fuente was awarded the prestigious Princess of Girona Prize for Scientific Research, the ASM Award for Early Career Applied and Biotechnological Research, the Rao Makineni Lectureship Award by the American Peptide Society, and was selected as a National Academy of Medicine Emerging Leader in Health and Medicine. De la Fuente serves on the editorial boards of more than 20 scholarly journals and is currently an associate editor of Drug Resistance Updates (the premier international drug resistance journal), Nature Communications Biology, Bioengineering & Translational Medicine, and Digital Discovery. He has been named a highly cited researcher by Clarivate several times. De la Fuente has given over 220 invited lectures, including numerous keynotes and named lectures, and his scientific discoveries have yielded multiple patents and over 125 publications, including papers in Science, Cell Host Microbe, Nature Biomedical Engineering, Nature Communications, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, ACS Nano, Cell, Nature Chemical Biology, and Advanced Materials.