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Cambridge Launches Multidisciplinary Synthetic Bio, Big Data Initiatives

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The University of Cambridge said today it has launched new multidisciplinary, collaborative research programs focused on synthetic biology and big data, as well as cardiovascular disease and public policy.

The university has added the four new subject areas into its Strategic Research Initiative program, which brings together academics from different disciplines to harness their expertise and make a “real-world impact,” Cambridge said.

Professor Lynn Gladden, pro-vice-chancellor for research at Cambridge, said in a statement that these strategic interdisciplinary initiatives “will help to increase our national and international impact, and make our research more visible to funding agencies, charities, industry, and donors.”

Cambridge said it launched the synthetic biology initiative because it is “one of the fastest-growing scientific and technological arenas,” and noted that the school has already “played a key role in advances in bioengineering, computational modeling, and development of standards and protocols.”

The synthetic biology initiative at Cambridge is very much in tune with a national push in this area. The UK government has invested heavily in synthetic biology programs over the past year under a long-term strategic effort to build up the national infrastructure and encourage new business ventures in this field. These investments have included $15 million in funding for a synthetic biology research center at Imperial College, London, $16 million to support new synthetic biology startups, and $6 million for competitive grants for businesses to develop new synthetic biology technologies, among others.

The big data initiative will focus on addressing the implications of the use of massive amounts of data that are being generated from new technologies, as well as the ethical, legal, and political implications of working with such large data sets.

Cambridge said cardiovascular disease research is a major source of the university’s funding, and that this initiative will bring together experts from across disciplines to improve the management, treatment, and prevention of this illness.

The public policy initiative will link investigators from the humanities and the sciences to study the policy process and the impacts that new technologies can have on policy decisions.