3 February 2015
UK Business Secretary Vince Cable has announced £40M of new investment in synthetic biology.
Synthetic biology, the creation of useful new synthetic or genetically engineered organisms, is an area in which Great Britain excels (one of the designated 'Eight Great Technologies'), and investment to boost capacity has for some time been a political priority, to ensure that the country can capitalise on its expertise and generate both useful applications and wealth.
Major funding for the field was announced in 2013, including the creation of a new Synthetic Biology Innovation and Knowledge Centre at Imperial College London. Last year, the government pledged £40 million for the creation of three new Synthetic Biology Research Centres in Bristol, Nottingham and Cambridge / Norwich, along with a further £10 million to support dedicated DNA synthesis facilities for academic and commercial researchers.
Now an additional £32 million will go to establish three more new centres, this time in Edinburgh, Manchester and Warwick, and £8 million for academic research partnerships to support DNA synthesis. These will involve the Universities of Edinburgh, Cambridge, Liverpool, Oxford, Bristol, Birmingham, Southampton, Imperial College and The Genome Analysis Centre.
The funding is to come from the government (£10.6 million), with £10 million from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and £10.8 million from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), along with £0.7 million from the Medical Research Council (MRC).
MRC Head of Molecular and Cellular Medicine Dr Nathan Richardson commented: "The MRC supports world-leading research in synthetic biology and is committed to foster innovation to develop tools and technologies to better understand the biology of health and disease, and also to engineer new systems to develop new bio-therapeutics and biosensors for health".
The BBSRC has reportedly made it a requirement that each of the new Synthetic Biology Research Centres should take steps to engage widely with stakeholders including the public, policy-makers and regulators in developing responsible research and innovation, notably addressing safety concerns.