Press Office


Leading the way in Synthetic Biology

Newcastle University is to play a key role in a new £10 million Innovation and Knowledge Centre that will boost the UK’s position as a leader in the emerging field of synthetic biology.

Building on the University’s expertise in this area, the new SynbiCITE centre has been set up to bridge the gap between academia and industry - integrating research in synthetic biology into industrial products and processes.

Announced today by the Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts, the project involves 17 universities and 13 industrial partners including Microsoft, Shell and GlaxoSmithKline.

The Newcastle University part of the project will be led by Professor Anil Wipat, Director of the university’s Centre for Synthetic Biology and Bioexploitation (CSBB) - a centre of excellence which combines the expertise of computer scientists and bacterial cell biologists.

Professor Wipat said: “This builds on ongoing cutting-edge work in the application of computing principles and technology to the design of novel, commercially valuable biological systems. This is an unrivalled opportunity to develop the infrastructure necessary to produce new and useful innovations for medicine, agriculture and the environment.”

Professor Jeff Errington, Co-Director of the CSBB, added, "Newcastle's involvement in the project not only reflects the strength in depth of the regional industry that stands to benefit, but also our world leading expertise in the fundamental science that underpins synthetic biology."

The announcement coincides with the appointment to Newcastle University of one of the country’s leading experts in Synthetic Biology.  Professor Natalio Krasnogor joins Newcastle after the summer to head up a new Synthetic Biology Group, leading on a ground-breaking, £1m research project to develop the first universal biological cell operating system.

The application of synthetic biology will both replace existing inefficient production processes and speed up the development of new processes and products for a wide range of industrial sectors, such as human health; agriculture and food production; environmental protection and remediation; bioenergy and chemical production.

Newcastle University’s synthetic biology focus integrates world-leading expertise from across a wide variety of disciplines including computing science, engineering, mathematics and molecular biosciences.  The team will play a key role in the project, leading the computational design and the development of industrially relevant bacterial strains.

SynbiCITE is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and the Technology Strategy Board.  It will receive initial grant funding of £5 million, with a further £5 million to be awarded over the next two years.

published on: 11 July 2013