The UK government has announced new funding of £60 million to support synthetic biology research and development.
Synthetic biology was earmarked for fresh investment in 2012 (see previous news) as one of the UK’s major areas of technological expertise and commercial potential, but the details were released today. The funding announced by Science Minister David Willets includes £10 million to create a new multi-partner Innovation and Knowledge Centre (IKC) in synthetic biology based at Imperial College London, £20 million for a new set of multidisciplinary research centres based in other universities, £10 million seed funding to support commercialisation, £18 million from the research councils for DNA synthesis and £2 million to support training in synthetic biology.
A further £1 million will support UK participation in an international project to synthesise the first artificial yeast cells, which have a range of potential applications but are a much larger and more complex type of cell (eukaryotic) than the synthetic bacterial (prokaryotic) cells previously produced.
Co-director of the new Imperial College centre Richard Kitney said that synthetic biology could be ‘the next industrial revolution’ for the UK, adding: “From producing new, more sustainable fuels to developing devices that can monitor or improve our health, the applications in this field are limitless”.