The UK government has announced details of ongoing investment in synthetic biology.
Synthetic biology is a young field enabled by advances in DNA sequencing and manipulation techniques. It involves the creation of new synthetic organisms, or the re-engineering of existing ones, typically to serve some useful purpose.
Following the award of a total of £40 million earlier this year for three new synthetic biology research centres (see previous news), a further £12 million is to be spent on new facilities and post-doctoral training. The money is from the UK Research Councils, led by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).
£10 million will go to five new centres for DNA synthesis across the UK, intended to serve both academic and commercial research, and £2 million to support doctoral training.
The new Centres for DNA synthesis will be:
- Edinburgh Genome Foundry - with a special focus on the design and production of large gene constructs
- Liverpool GeneMill - a high-throughput facility for gene synthesis
- MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge – creating a robotic, automated assembly system for synthetic genes.
- DNA Synthesis and Construction Foundry, Imperial College London – developing a platform to underpin a standardised framework for DNA synethesis, gene assembly and verification.
- The Genome Analysis Centre, Norwich – supporting the creation and exploitation of valuable products from plants and microbes.
Announcing the extra funding, Universities and Science Minister David Willetts said: "Synthetic biology is one of the eight great technologies of the future with the potential to underpin growth and create jobs in a low carbon economy".
Having centres dedicated to developing, refining and in some cases providing as a service the effective nuts and bolts of synthetic biology should certainly assist other researchers in focusing on how to apply synthetic biology approaches to different problems. In the health arena, this is largely the efficient production of improved diagnostics, therapeutics and delivery systems.