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Industry highlights benefits of synthetic biology investment

9 November 2012

Earlier today, the Chancellor announced £20M funding awarded by BBSRC through the Strategic Longer and Larger Awards Scheme.

The awards were supported by contributions of nearly £3M from industry and three of the awards were co-funded in partnership with the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), which contributed nearly £2M.

BBSRC was joined in welcoming the news by industry representatives who are helping to take these projects forward as project partners offering direct funding, or by offering access to specialist equipment or knowledge.

Dr Barrie Wilkinson FRSC, Vice President, R&D, Biotica Technology Limited said: "This funding to explore the potential of synthetic biology allows scientists to harness the properties of a very diverse family of naturally occurring compounds called polyketides. These secondary metabolites, produced by bacteria, fungi, plants, and animals, have a range of biological activities and pharmacological properties.

"Many naturally occurring polyketide compounds have already been used as antibiotics, antifungals, and natural insecticides. Advances in genome sequencing and huge progress in understanding the genes, enzymes and chemistry involved in the microbial synthesis of these compounds now allows the pathways responsible to be synthetically engineered to produce novel compounds and medicines."

Jennifer Holmgren, CEO of LanzaTech, said that this project signifies the increased importance of synthetic biology in a low carbon future. "The direct production of key chemical intermediates from gas feedstocks is an important part of LanzaTech's long term aspirations. This project enables us to combine LanzaTech's molecular biology experts under the leadership of our founder and CSO, Dr Sean Simpson, with the world class science in Professor Nigel Minton's laboratory at Nottingham University. In partnership with Professors Minton's team, with its proven track record in the development of advanced genetic tools for industrial bacteria, we will focus on the development of novel industrial strains for direct production of high value, low carbon footprint chemicals from non-food resources."

Dr Jason Vincent, Syngenta, said: "While natural products have been the inspiration behind some of the most important products in the crop protection industry, conventional sources of natural product leads have not always been as productive as the industry would like. This new programme, developed with leading experts in natural product biosynthesis, aims to unlock the hidden potential in this area. We are looking forward to working with our consortium partners and the BBSRC on this major project, and to developing real-world applications for the many discoveries that will come from it."

The awards include:

  • £2.9M to help make low-carbon fuel, Professor Minton, University of Nottingham
  • £4.5M to understand natural biological 'factories' and their role in producing novel agrochemicals, Professor Challis, University of Warwick
  • £4.0M to establish a sophisticated new methodology for creating useful microorganism strains, Professor Stark, University of Glasgow
  • £4.0M to engineering synthetic microbial communities for biomethane production, Dr Soyer, University of Exeter
  • £4.4M for the use of synthetic micro-organisms to develop industrial biocatalysts, Professor Turner, the University of Manchester
  • £2.5M for the first step in engineering cereal that is less reliant on fertiliser, Professor Oldroyd, John Innes Centre

ENDS

Notes to editors

The Chancellor's speech at the Royal Society can be found here www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/speech_chx_091112.htm.

Contact

BBSRC Media Office

tel: 01793 414694