Plant scientists at Cambridge and Norwich have been awarded 12 million funding for a new UK synthetic biology centre OpenPlant.
Inspired by the way open source data has stimulated innovation in computing, OpenPlant will create a climate of openness in synthetic biology, helping young researchers and entrepreneurs develop and share new tools and libraries of plant DNA.
OpenPlant is a collaboration between the University of Cambridge and the John Innes Centre on Norwich Research Park. The funding will be shared equally between the two institutions. It is one of three new UK centres for synthetic biology announced today by science minister David Willetts. Over the next five years the three centres will receive more than 40 million in funding from the BBSRC and EPSRC.
Sitting at the boundary between sciences, synthetic biology uses engineering principles including standardisation and modularisation to make new biological parts and systems. Using knowledge about the biological properties of plants and microbes, synthetic biology can improve their use as factories, food and fuel. As well as helping improve crops across the world, synthetic biology could be used to develop new medicines, chemicals and green energy sources.
Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts, said: "Synthetic biology is one of the most promising areas of modern science, which is why we have identified it as one of the eight great British technologies of the future. Synthetic biology has the potential to drive economic growth but still remains relatively untapped and these new centres will ensure that the UK is at the forefront when it comes to commercialising these new technologies."
While US researchers are at the cutting edge of synthetic biology in microbes, the UK has the edge in plants. To fulfil its potential, however, researchers and small companies need greater freedom to operate, freedom that in key areas of computing has drive
|Contact: Becky Allen|
University of Cambridge