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£15.8M for long-term projects tackling major scientific challenges

Copyright: Monkey business
  • Funding to Sheffield, Kent, Manchester, Glasgow and Oxford to tackle major bioscience challenges
  • Health, energy and agriculture to benefit from long-term research investment
  • Projects include: synthetic biology for light-powered cell factories, micro-factories to produce pharmaceuticals, new vaccines for livestock, understanding human cell cycles

Five high-value, long-term research projects totalling £15.8M have been funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). They have the potential to produce energy and valuable chemicals using sunlight, to tackle animal diseases that cost farmers millions annually and to contribute to the fight against cancer.

The five grants, funded through BBSRC's Strategic Longer and Larger grants (sLoLas) scheme, give world-leading teams long-term funding and resources to address major challenges. The projects were chosen based on their scientific excellence; because they required long timescales, extensive resources and/or multidisciplinary approaches; and because they involve internationally leading research teams.

Greg Clark, Minister for Universities, Science and Cities, said: "This funding will support world-leading research teams in Sheffield, Kent, Manchester, Glasgow and Oxford to address research gaps in bioscience for the benefit of the UK.

"From harnessing the sun's power for better biofuel production to investigating how to reduce costs for British sheep farmers, these research projects supported by almost £16M from government will help to find long-term solutions to some of our biggest challenges in areas like health, energy and agriculture."

Professor Jackie Hunter, BBSRC Chief Executive, said: "BBSRC's sLoLas scheme gives world-leading scientists based in the UK long-term funding to work on critical research challenges. In this round those challenges include producing clean energy, new ways to produce medicines and other valuable chemicals, and protecting livestock from disease.

"Not only will these funded projects help the UK and the world to address these challenges, but it will build vital research capacity here in the UK and provide opportunities for economic and social benefits."

The projects are:

Principal Investigator Organisation Title Value
Professor Neil Hunter The University of Sheffield Engineering new capacities for solar energy utilisation in bacteria £3,349,791
Professor Martin Warren University of Kent Development of supramolecular assemblies for enhancing cellular productivity and the synthesis of fine chemicals and biotherapeutics £3,484,320
Professor Nigel Scrutton The University of Manchester Innovative Routes to Monoterpene Hydrocarbons and Their High Value Derivatives £2,990,390
Professor Eileen Devaney University of Glasgow The BUG consortium Building Upon the Genome: using H. contortus genomic resources to develop novel interventions to control endemic GI parasites £2,922,217
Professor Béla Novák University of Oxford Systems-level characterization of mammalian cell cycle transitions £3,040,813

ENDS

Notes to editors

Project details:

The University of Sheffield.
Professor Neil Hunter: Engineering new capacities for solar energy utilisation in bacteria

This wide ranging research programme aims to discover how photosynthetic bacteria, the most metabolically versatile organisms on Earth, make chlorophyll and how they use these pigments to harvest and trap solar energy.

A multidisciplinary team of geneticists, biochemists, chemists and physicists will build on this knowledge by engineering bacteria with enhanced abilities to absorb and use solar energy.

The ultimate aim of this ambitious synthetic biology programme is to create light-powered cell factories that one day could provide large amounts of clean energy and valuable chemicals.

University of Kent.
Professor Martin Warren: Development of supramolecular assemblies for enhancing cellular productivity and the synthesis of fine chemicals and biotherapeutics

This project will engineer new scaffolds and compartments to enhance the ability of rewiring and reorganising the internal metabolic machinery of cells

The overall aim is to build metabolic micro-factories inside cells that will be able to produce useful and/or valuable molecules, such as pharmaceuticals, without intoxicating the cells.

To achieve this ambitious goal an interdisciplinary team of researchers covering such diverse areas as cell biology, chemistry, bioinformatics, and engineering has been assembled.

The University of Manchester.
Professor Nigel Scrutton: Innovative Routes to Monoterpene Hydrocarbons and Their High Value Derivatives

This programme will design, build and integrate new synthetic biology (SynBio) technology that accelerates delivery of bespoke SynBio solutions for chemicals/natural products synthesis.

The researchers will design and assemble bespoke biological parts to create a production pipeline within a synthetic, engineered microbial biofactory.

The process will include the synthesis of new chemical libraries to support industrial and academic drug discovery programmes. More broadly, the programme will provide general tools, technology platforms and SynBio 'know-how' that will impact widely in sustainable manufacture of chemicals and natural products.

University of Glasgow.
Professor Eileen Devaney:
The BUG consortium Building Upon the Genome: using H. contortus genomic resources to develop novel interventions to control endemic GI parasites

Most food-producing animals are infected with a variety of different parasitic roundworms which cause a range of diseases and lead to significant economic losses for farmers.

It is estimated these worms cost the UK sheep industry £84 million per annum. These parasites are controlled using drugs known as anthelmintics, but many no longer work effectively because the parasites have developed resistance, analogous to antibiotic resistance in bacteria.

The project will investigate ways of ensuring that existing drugs are managed to minimise the occurrence and spread of resistance and will also study novel approaches to vaccine development. DNA analysis of parasite genomes will identify new ways of controlling nematode infections and using new technologies to ensure that farmers can continue to produce livestock effectively.

The project will also optimise the selection of potential vaccine candidates.

University of Oxford.
Professor Béla Novák: Systems-level characterization of mammalian cell cycle transitions

This research programme will test the design principles of the complex cell cycle control network of human cells.

In humans cells must proliferate in an ordered and controlled manner to form the adult body. The cell cycle is a series of events that results in two cells forming from one parent cell.

Understanding the principles of cell cycle controls in mammalian cells is vital to the understanding of human disease, including cancers.

A combination of high-tech experimental and theoretical tools will tackle this problem, conducted by an interdisciplinary team of biochemists, cell biologists and modellers.

About BBSRC

BBSRC invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.

Funded by Government, and with an annual budget of around £484M (2013-2014), we support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.

For more information about BBSRC, our science and our impact see: www.bbsrc.ac.uk.
For more information about BBSRC strategically funded institutes see: www.bbsrc.ac.uk/institutes.


Tags: bioeconomy data energy farming funding genetics innovation nanotechnology synthetic biology BBSRC press release