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£12M for synthetic biology facilities and training

£12M for synthetic biology facilities and training - 2 April 2014. Thinkstock  deedman

Science Minister David Willetts will announce £12M for synthetic biology facilities and training at the opening address of the SynBioBeta Conference reception tonight.

The UK Research Councils, led by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), will award £10M to establish five centres for DNA synthesis across the UK to further develop the UK's research base in synthetic biology.

The new academic centres will build bridges between academic and embryonic synthetic biology companies, helping to nurture the UK's growing synthetic biology industry and boosting the UK's capability in the area to help create jobs and drive economic growth.

In addition, £2M will provide equipment to enhance student training at BBSRC and Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs), which providing world-leading training environments for students of synthetic biology.

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. This investment in SynBio will hopefully stimulate even more interest and financial support and reinforce our efforts to develop a leading SynBio community in the UK."

Synthetic biology involves the design and construction of novel biologically-based parts, devices and systems, as well as redesigning existing biological systems for useful purposes. It has been identified by the UK Government as one of the "Eight Great Technologies" in which Great Britain is or can be a world leader.

One of the biggest hurdles in synthetic biology is the creation and assembly of starting materials: modular bits of DNA that code for a particular function and are synthesised in the lab. Creating this DNA is time-consuming and expensive. The DNA synthesis centres, in Edinburgh, London, Liverpool, Norwich and Cambridge, will build on existing investments to further establish capability of DNA synthesis for synthetic biology in the UK to help tackle this problem

The CDTs, based at University College London and a consortium between the universities of Bristol, Oxford and Warwick will offer doctoral students the chance to learn in specialist synthetic biology facilities, improving the breadth and depth of their skills.

Professor Melanie Welham, BBSRC Executive Director of Science, said: "These new investments will help the UK develop as a leader in synthetic biology and make advances in a wide range of fields, such as agriculture, renewable materials, biofuels and medicines, while at the same time reducing our reliance on finite resources, such as petrochemicals. Nature's toolbox already produces many useful industrial chemicals and medicines and synthetic biology offers the opportunity to redesign these tools for useful purposes."

Kedar Pandya, EPSRC Engineering Lead said: "This cross council investment in synthetic biology will keep the UK at the forefront of developments in the vastly promising area. By providing capital funds to Centres for Doctoral Training we are giving students the tools they need to get the best possible training."

The capital funds for both the DNA synthesis centres and the CDTs are part of £50M allocated to realise the Roadmap for Synthetic Biology in the UK in the 2012 Autumn Statement from Chancellor George Osborne.

The Centres for DNA Synthesis:

The Centres for Doctoral Training:

ENDS

Notes to editors

The report "A Synthetic Biology Roadmap for the UK" is available to download at: www.rcuk.ac.uk/publications/reports/syntheticbiologyroadmap/

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 £467M (2012-2013), 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.