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Imperial College, London School of Economics Starting Synthetic Biology Center with $12M Grant

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) - The UK will establish a new synthetic biology research center that will be a partnership between Imperial College London and the London School of Economics and Political Science.
The UK's Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council has given an £8 million ($11.8 million) grant to start the Centre for Synthetic Biology and Innovation, which will focus on cell programming and other research areas.
The center will aim to conduct collaborations, generate intellectual property for licensing, and eventually generate spinout companies that “will play a part in spawning new industries for the UK,” Richard Kitney, who will direct the center, said in a statement.
Imperial College and LSE will work together to inform the public about research programs that will happen at the center through lectures and outreach about synthetic biology research. LSE also will train researchers in the ethical, legal, social, and political issues that surround the emerging field.
The center, which is part of the Imperial Institute for Systems and Synthetic Biology, will be based in the Faculty of Engineering, and it will work with the Department of Bioengineering and life sciences.
The funding will be used to establish the center’s physical space and for lab refurbishments, as well as recruiting academic staff and postdoctoral research fellows.
Paul Freemont, co-director of the center, said he expects that over the coming 20 to 50 years synthetic biology techniques will have the precision of electronics. “We want to get to the stage where we’ve got all the parts we need to build any biological machine that we want,” Freemont said.
Researchers initially will focus on developing standard systems and specifications to create such technologies, Freemont added.
“This will involve modifying DNA, inserting it into cells, and cataloguing what these cells do,” he explained. These technologies will be used “to assemble devices for use in a range of applications,” such as biological microprocessors, he said.

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