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New center launched today to spearhead UK research in synthetic biology
Date:12/22/2008

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 th
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Contact: Colin Smith
cd.smith@imperial.ac.uk
44-020-759-46712
Imperial College London
Source:Eurekalert

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