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New £12 million Synthetic Biology Centre

Researchers at the University of Warwick have won a £12 million award to create a new Centre to develop advanced technologies in synthetic biology. This research will help drive advances in pharmaceuticals, high-value and commodity chemicals, innovative treatments for disease, environmental bioremediation, and food security. It will also play a major role in helping us achieve a much better understanding of some of the key principles underpinning living systems.

Vince Cable, the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, announced today (Thursday 29 January) that researchers at the Warwick Integrative Synthetic Biology centre (WISB) have been awarded a five-year £12 million grant. WISB brings together researchers from across the University in disciplines including Life Sciences, Engineering, Chemistry, Computer Science, Education, and Law.

What does this mean for Warwick?

WISB Co-Directors, Professor Declan Bates (School of Engineering) and Professor Orkun Soyer (School of Life Sciences) have made a video that explains the potential of Synthetic Biology to transform scientific research and create new opportunities for investors:

Professor John McCarthy, School of Life Sciences and Director of WISB, said:

We are delighted to receive this strategically important UK Synthetic Biology Centre Award. Synthetic biology has huge potential to generate valuable processes and products for biotechnology and medicine, as well as new understanding of the fundamental principles that underpin living systems. WISB is building a globally recognized presence as a centre of excellence in research and training in Synthetic Biology, and this grant from BBSRC and EPSRC will help us enormously in achieving our goals.”

Synthetic biology is a new way of doing science that applies engineering principles to biology to make and build new biological parts, devices and systems. It’s being used to make biological ‘factories’ that make useful products like medicines, chemicals and green energy, as well as tools for improving crops. Examples include biofuels and anti-malaria drugs made by microbes like yeast or bacteria. Synthetic biology has been identified by the UK Government as one of the ‘Eight Great Technologies’ in which Great Britain can be a world leader.

Find out more about Warwick Integrative Synthetic Biology centre (WISB)

wisbOne of the advanced technologies used by the WISB team is the ability to engineer biofilms of bacteria to exhibit required behaviours such as forming pre-determined shapes (see right). This is the work of Dr Munehiro Asally of the WISB team, who studies biofilms formed by the Gram-positive soil bacterium Bacillus subtilis. It is one of the best characterized model systems for biofilm research. Find out more about WISB.