School of Computing


An Infrastructure for platform technology in synthetic Biology

The aim of the project is to develop integrated platform technology and an infrastructure for synthetic biology. Five British universities (Imperial College, Cambridge, Edinburgh, LSE/Kings and Newcastle), who are amongst the international leaders in synthetic biology, have formed a Consortium to address the issue. These universities already have very significant research programmes in synthetic biology. The consortium will provide the critical mass and synergy necessary to address a range of synthetic biology research and its translation to industry. Synthetic Biology can be defined as a field that "aims to design and engineer biologically based parts, novel devices and systems, as well as redesigning existing natural biological systems" (The Royal Academy of Engineering Synthetic Biology Inquiry Report. May 2009). It is a rapidly developing field which, it is now recognised, will have major relevance to enhancing the UK's industrial base. Britain, like much of the rest of Europe, has limited natural resources. The exception to this is high quality human resources - which have resulted in the UK being second only to the US in terms of our scientific research base. Synthetic biology is a field which naturally lends itself to the creation of new knowledge industries - and to enhancement of existing industries.

To achieve this it will be necessary to create platform technology, comprising tools, processes etc, which can be applied across a range of fields. The platform technology will be used as part of a systematic design process involving the design cycle for synthetic biology (specifications, design, modelling, implementation, testing and validation) to produce biologically based parts, devices and systems - with a range of applications in different fields. An important aspect of the approach is the incorporation of ethical, societal and environmental considerations into the design process. A number of detailed exemplar applications projects will be carried out in close collaboration with industry to test the effectiveness of the infrastructure and platform technology as a vehicle for translating university-based research into industrial applications. The Consortium aims to provide knowledge hubs where firms in the field can share information and build strong networks and clusters. The objective is for the platform technology to be: (a) compatible with the work and aspirations of the international community and (b) readily accessible by a wide range of users (both academic and industrial).