Porous silica is an attractive biomaterial in many applications, including drug-delivery systems, bone-graft fillers and medical devices. The issue with porous silica biomaterials is the rate at which they resorb and the significant role played by interfacial chemistry on the host response in vivo. This paper explores the potential of diatom-biosilica as a model tool to assist in the task of mapping and quantifying the role of surface topography and chemical cues on cell fate. Diatoms are unicellular microalgae whose cell walls are composed of, amorphous nanopatterned biosilica that cannot be replicated synthetically. Their unique nanotopography has the potential to improve understanding of interface reactions between materials and cells. This study used Cyclotella meneghiniana as a test subject to assess cytotoxicity and pro-inflammatory reactions to diatom-biosilica. The results suggest that diatom-biosilica is non-cytotoxic to J774.2 macrophage cells, and supports cell proliferation and growth. The addition of amine and thiol linkers have shown a significant effect on cytotoxicity, growth and cytokine response, thus warranting further investigation into the interfacial effects of small chemical modifications to substrate surfaces. The overall findings suggest diatom-biosilica offers a unique platform for in-depth investigation of the role played by nanotopography and chemistry in biomedical applications.