The development of innovative medicines and personalized biomedical approaches require the identification and implementation of new biocompatible materials produced by methodologically simple and cheap fabrication methods. The biological fabrication of materials, mostly carried out by microorganisms, has historically provided organic compounds with wide-spectrum biomedical applications, including hyaluronic acid, poly(γ-glutamic acid) and polyhydroxyalkanoates. Additionally, the implementation of new methodological platforms such as metabolic engineering and systems biology have facilitated the controlled production of natural nanoparticles produced by bacteria, including metallic deposits of Au, Ag, Cd, Zn or Fe, virus-like particles or other nanoscale protein-only entities. The unexpected potential of such self-organized and functional materials in nanomedical scenarios (especially in drug delivery, imaging and tissue engineering) prompts serious consideration of further exploitation of bacterial cell factories as convenient alternatives to chemical synthesis and as sources of novel bioproducts that could dramatically expand the existing catalog of biomedical materials. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd.