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UK Investing $15.1M into New Synthetic Biology Center

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The UK is investing £10 million ($15.1 million) to create a new center to drive the translation of synthetic biology research into industrial applications.

The new Innovation and Knowledge Center (IKC) called SynbiCite announced today will be based at Imperial College London. Richard Kitney and Paul Freemont, professors at the university, will head the center, whose goal is to act as an industrial translation engine "that can integrate university and industry-based research in synthetic biology into industrial process and products."

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research, and the Technology Strategy Board are providing funding for SynbiCite. The center will receive initial grant funding of £5 million, with the remaining £5 million to be dispersed during the next two years.

Today's announcement follows on a pledge by the UK government made in November to provide £10 million in funding for an IKC specifically focusing on synthetic biology, as part of the government's push into the field. A year ago, a report advised the UK government to support funding for synthetic biology, and the UK Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts has identified synthetic biology as one of the Eight Great Technologies that the country needs to prioritize.

In announcing the funding today at the Biobricks Foundation's Sixth International Meeting on Synthetic Biology conference, Willetts said, "Synthetic biology has huge potential for our economy and society in so many areas, from life sciences to agriculture. But to realize this potential we need to ensure researchers and business work together.

"This new Innovation and Knowledge Center will help advance scientific knowledge and turn cutting edge research into commercial success," he said.

The center, which will serve as a national resource, is supported by 17 academic partners, including Bangor University; University of Birmingham; University of Bristol; University of Cambridge; Cardiff University; and University of Edinburgh.

Other academic partners are University of Exeter; University of Glasgow; Imperial College; King's College London; Newcastle University, University of Oxford; and Queen's University, Belfast.

It also includes University of Sheffield; Swansea University; University College London; and University of Warwick.

More than a dozen industry partners also support SynbiCite: Agilent Technologies UK; GlaxoSmithKline R&D; Hockley International; Lisk and Jones Consultants; Microsoft Research; New Food Innovation; and Oil Plus.

Other industry partners are Oxitec; Pulse Medical; Royal College of Art; Shell Global Solutions UK; Suterra; Syngenta; and Visbion.