Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New centre launched today to spearhead UK research in synthetic biology

23.12.2008
Programming biological cells so that they behave like engineering parts is the focus of research at a new UK centre launched today, thanks to an £8 million grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

The new centre will focus on synthetic biology. This is a field in which engineers work with molecular bioscientists to produce biologically-based parts, by modifying DNA. These parts could be used to build biological devices that could detect the early onset of disease or combat harmful bacterial infections.

Imperial College London in partnership with the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) will establish the Centre for Synthetic Biology and Innovation as part of EPSRC’s effort to push the UK to the forefront of this field. Imperial’s Professor Richard Kitney, Director of the Centre, says this new research facility will bring a wealth of new expertise to the UK. He adds:

“Imperial will recruit the best scientists from the UK and around the world to carry out collaborative research, generate intellectual property for licensing, and ultimately create spinout companies that will play a part in spawning new industries for the UK.”

Imperial’s Professor Paul Freemont, who is Co-Director of the Centre, says that in the next 20 to 50 years research in this field will get to the point where synthetic biology techniques will have the precision of electronics. Currently, biology is much more complicated and less understood. He explains:

“Our understanding of how living cells work isn’t as good as our understanding of electronic devices. We want to get to the stage where we’ve got all the parts we need to build any biological machine that we want.”

Initially, researchers at the Centre will focus on developing standard systems and specifications to create these parts. This will involve modifying DNA, inserting it into cells, and cataloguing what these cells do. These will then be used to assemble devices for use in a range of applications.

One long-term application could include the development of biological micro-processors. These are microscopic biologically based electronic devices that could, for example, be inserted into the body to monitor the health of patients, or detect types of cancer.

Already, researchers at Imperial have developed some important components for use in a biological micro-processor, such as an oscillator, which is a device that keeps time. Scientists are also working on logic circuits for use in microprocessors, called ‘AND’ gates, made from bacteria.

Another application is the development of sensors to detect harmful bacteria. These sensors are designed to recognise a small molecule that is released when harmful bacteria begin to colonise surfaces.

Scientists say this device could have applications in the food and healthcare industry where samples from wiped surfaces could be placed on the infection detector’s chip. This would emit different coloured lights to alert the user to the type of bacteria that has infected the surface such as E.coli or MRSA, enabling staff to take remedial action rapidly.

The College will work closely with LSE to inform the public about the research that will be carried out at the Centre. This will involve lectures and outreach activities about the potential benefits of synthetic biology and its public value.

LSE will also train researchers at the Centre in the social, ethical, legal, and political issues surrounding this emerging field. These include examining the social and economic impacts of biotechnology, and developing practices of regulation and good governance

Professor Nikolas Rose, Director of LSE’s BIOS Centre, points out that consideration of the social issues has been built in to the very conception of this new centre. He says:

“We have developed a highly innovative link between life scientists and social scientists in teaching and research. Crucially, we believe that informed public debate, with active engagement by the research scientists, is essential if the many benefits of synthetic biology are to be fully realised”

The Centre for Synthetic Biology and Innovation is part of Imperial’s Institute for Systems and Synthetic Biology - a multidisciplinary, multi faculty institute focused on developing novel approaches to research in biology, medicine and engineering. The new centre will be based in the Faculty of Engineering and will work closely with the Department of Bioengineering and life sciences.

The Centre received a grant from the EPSRC as part of their Science and Innovation Award 2008. This will be used to establish a physical space, laboratory refurbishments as well as recruiting academic staff and postdoctoral research fellows.

Colin Smith | alfa
Further information:
http://www.imperial.ac.uk
http://www.lse.ac.uk/

More articles from Science Education:

nachricht Starting school boosts development
11.05.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung

nachricht New Master’s programme: University of Kaiserslautern educates experts in quantum technology
15.03.2017 | Technische Universität Kaiserslautern

All articles from Science Education >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Terahertz spectroscopy goes nano

20.10.2017 | Information Technology

Strange but true: Turning a material upside down can sometimes make it softer

20.10.2017 | Materials Sciences

NRL clarifies valley polarization for electronic and optoelectronic technologies

20.10.2017 | Interdisciplinary Research

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>