igem logo

Impacting healthcare with innovative solutions

cELPro: Treating inflammatory bowel disease with intracellularly hydrogelated E. coli cells

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)


4.9 million people worldwide[1]


Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis


Lifelong disease

Current therapies

Current treatment options for IBD are either non-specific or invasive[2], which requires a lot of hospital visits. Treatment costs are also a major problem as they are very expensive[3]. Antibody therapy already costs 10,000-40,000 euros a year for one individual patient[4].

Our solution

We genetically engineer E. coli bacteria to make intracellularly hydrogelated cells. Elastin-Like Polypeptides (ELPs) are expressed inside the cell, which form a hydrogel. This prevents the bacteria from dividing, while they are still able to express Interleukin 10 (IL-10) as treatment for IBD. IL-10 works anti-inflammatory and can locally suppress IBD symptoms[5].

Selling points


IL-10 is excreted locally at the place of inflammation, therefore the treatment is specific.

Less side effects

Due to the local approach, not the whole immune system of the patient will be affected, resulting in fewer side effects.

More affordable

Since IL-10 is a protein, all the machinery for protein expression is already present in the bacteria. This makes cELPro easily scalable. Moreover, the easy way of administration and therefore the reduced need for trained physicians makes the treatment more affordable.


The technology behind cELPro to express an intracellular hydrogel is an innovative approach to make a safe and local drug delivery system. This platform has the possibility to expand to other (bowel) diseases in the future.

More about our project can be read on our Project Description Page.

Team TU Eindhoven presents cELPro

An innovative, cheap, and safe solution to improve the quality of life for IBD patients.

Are you inspired and want to learn more about our project?

Take a look at our Wiki pages.

[1] R. Wang, Z. Li, S. Liu, and D. Zhang, “Global, regional and national burden of inflammatory bowel disease in 204 countries and territories from 1990 to 2019: a systematic analysis based on the Global Burden of Disease Study 2019,” BMJ Open, vol. 13, no. 3, p. e065186, Mar. 2023, doi: 10.1136/BMJOPEN-2022-065186.

[2] G. Roda, B. Jharap, N. Neeraj, and J. F. Colombel, “Loss of Response to Anti-TNFs: Definition, Epidemiology, and Management,” Clin. Transl. Gastroenterol., vol. 7, no. 1, p. e135, Jan. 2016, doi: 10.1038/CTG.2015.63.

[3] B. B. Rao et al., “The Cost of Crohn’s Disease: Varied Health Care Expenditure Patterns Across Distinct Disease Trajectories,” Inflamm. Bowel Dis., vol. 23, no. 1, pp. 107–115, Jan. 2017, doi: 10.1097/MIB.0000000000000977.

[4] Interview with Monique Devillers, read more on our Human Practices Page

[5] S. Umbrello and I. van de Poel, “Mapping value sensitive design onto AI for social good principles,” AI Ethics 2021 13, vol. 1, no. 3, pp. 283–296, Feb. 2021, doi: 10.1007/S43681-021-00038-3.