– Cutting-edge synthetic biology companies have received a £5.3 million government cash injection as the UK looks to boost the bioscience sector.
The investment, which comes from the Technology Strategy Board and Research Councils, will help to fund 15 projects across the UK. These include funding for the use of synthetically engineered bacteriophages for antibacterial therapy in Cambridge and new methods to enhance and optimise production of a novel antibiotic, which will be undertaken in Newcastle.
Synthetic biology applies the principles of engineering design to biological systems and processes. Scientists believe that it may lead to new applications, such as novel systems for energy and chemicals production, medical therapies and biological computers.
Universities and science minister David Willetts, said: “Synthetic biology is one of eight key technology areas that I have identified as playing an increasingly important part in the global economy over the coming years. The UK is well positioned in the biological sciences sector and is among the first economies in the world to invest in this exciting area of technology.
“By making investment in technology now, it will ensure that in ten years’ time, the UK is at the forefront of the global race when it comes to commercialising new technologies.”
Willetts announced grants totalling £5.3 million which were awarded through a competition for business-led, collaborative projects aimed at demonstrating the feasibility of using synthetic biology to create novel or improved products or processes.
Funding came from the Technology Strategy Board, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. Each of the applications was also assessed according to a series of responsible innovation criteria.
Iain Gray, chief executive of the Technology Strategy Board, said: “Synthetic biology is an emerging technology that can play a really important part in the UK’s economy. Our aim in supporting these projects is to help bring together a range of organisations that together, with our help, can develop the products and processes to ensure that the UK remains at the forefront of this sector.”
The BioIndustry Association said it was pleased to see much-needed support going to projects and companies in a rapidly-growing part of the biotech sector. “These companies are developing applications and industrial processes that could significantly impact many sectors including healthcare and pharmaceuticals resulting in economic growth and job creation,” the group said in statement.