The new centre will provide sustainable routes to important chemicals for researchers and industry using ground-breaking science.
The Centre, which has been made possible thanks to £14.3m worth of funding from the Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), was marked with an official opening on Wednesday 14 January 2015.
Engineering a greener society
As the world’s population grows ever bigger, there is an increasing burden on petroleum and natural gas, which are needed for fuel, plastics and medicines. Led by the University’s Professor Nigel Minton, the SBRC hopes to address the increasing gap between supply and demand by innovating and solving serious scientific challenges using a synthetic biology approach.
In the Centre, Professor Minton and his team will use synthetic biology to engineer microorganisms that can be used to manufacture the molecules and fuels that modern society needs in a cleaner and greener way.
They aim to use bacteria to convert gasses that are all around us (such as carbon monoxide (CO), carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) into more desirable and useful molecules, reducing our reliance on petrochemicals.
Professor Minton, Professor of Applied Molecular Microbiology, said: “We want to demonstrate that we can break society’s reliance on oil, coal and gas for fuels and chemicals. We are taking a pragmatic synthetic biology approach which means we will tailor the metabolisms of bacteria, already used industrially, so that they behave like mini-factories to economically produce chemical feedstocks in controlled and sustainable ways.”
The centre will offer a strong collaborative culture; provide essential state-of-the-art equipment, facilities, trained researchers and technical staff; drive advancement in modern synthetic biology research; and develop new technologies.
Dr Celia Caulcott, BBSRC Executive Director of Innovation & Skills said: “Synthetic biology has the potential to revolutionise modern science, with a host of benefits for society as a whole. By funding routes to commercialisation, BBSRC helps to ensure that the benefits of bioscience research can be fully exploited, with potential to drive economic growth.”
Synthetic biology is a revolutionary new way of doing bioscience which applies engineering principles to biology to make new biological parts, devices and systems. Synthetic biology builds on our knowledge of DNA sequencing and could be used to develop new medicines, chemicals and green energy sources as well as improving food crops across the world. Specific applications are already emerging, but its long-term potential for a range of industrial sectors remains largely untapped.
Image credit: By Barry Mangham (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (https://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons