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EU Opens $20M Synthetic Biology Funding Program

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – A European Commission-led synthetic biology program plans to use €15.5 million ($20 million) to fund international, multi-partner projects that will use synthetic biology in a range of research areas, including genomics, biological nanoscience, metabolic engineering, and other areas.

The Synthetic Biology ERA-NET, also known as ERASynBio, today released its first funding call, which will support efforts to pursue the program's aims to fund, develop, and coordinate Europe's synthetic biology capabilities and knowhow.

This round of funding is a joint call that is backed by groups from 13 national government agencies, including €3 million from the UK's Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.

ERASynBio, which launched last year, also seeks to stimulate collaborations between academia and industry and integrate them into focused research projects, and by providing training opportunities and creating an interdisciplinary advisory board.

"Synthetic biology has the potential to address some of the major challenges of the 21st century as well as offering innovations to benefit the economy. By applying engineering principles to biological research we have the potential to shape the future of industrial compounds, biofuels and new medicines, and to provide exciting insights into fundamental biological mechanisms," BBSRC Chief Executive Douglas Kell said in a statement from the council.

Although ERASynBio is coordinating the effort and will serve as a central contact, the various partner organizations will open the call simultaneously in their respective countries.

The program is seeking proposals for multidisciplinary projects that involve at least three partners in three or more nations, and which will have the potential to contribute to certain industrial sectors, including biotechnology, biomedicine, agriculture, bioremediation, and others.

The projects may pursue efforts to identify the smallest number of parts needed for life as a basis for engineering minimal cell factories; metabolic engineering efforts to modify biosynthetic pathways for sustainable chemistry; projects seeking to engineer cells to expand the genetic code and develop new information storage and processing capabilities; bionanoscience studies seeking to develop molecular-scale motors and other components for cell-based machines; using programmable chemical design to create semi-synthetic cells; and inserting artificial networks into cells and organisms that provide new functions.

Along with BBSRC, the project partners include the Academy of Finland; the French National Research Agency; the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research; the Danish Agency for Science, Technology, and Innovation; the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology; the Austrian Science Fund; the Commission for Technology and Innovation in Switzerland; the Latvian Academy of Sciences; the Ministry of Education, Science, and Sport in Slovenia; the US National Science Foundation; the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research; and the Research Council of Norway.