£5.3m investment in synthetic biotechnology projects

GSK, Cambimmune and Prokarium among companies to benefit from Technology Strategy Board cash

Industry leaders have welcomed the announcement of a £5.3m government cash injection for 15 business-led synthetic biotechnology projects.

The cash from the Technology Strategy Board will support firms looking to apply the principles of engineering design to biological systems and processes.

Scientists believe this may lead to new applications, such as novel systems for energy and chemicals production, medical therapies and biological computers.

The UK is well positioned in the biological sciences sector and is among the first economies in the world to invest in this exciting area of technology

The companies to benefit include GSK, which is looking to develop a synthetic biology to improve antibiotic production; Cambimmune, which is looking to use synthetically-engineered bacteriophages for antibacterial therapy; and Prokarium, which will use its funding to engineer immune cell-targeting bacteria to express vaccines from within the body.

Announcing the cash, Universities and Science Minister, David Willetts, said: “Synthetic biology is one of eight key technology areas that I have identified as playing an increasingly important part in the global economy over the coming years.

By making investment in technology now, it will ensure that in 10 years time the UK is at the forefront of the global race when it comes to commercialising new technologies

“The UK is well positioned in the biological sciences sector and is among the first economies in the world to invest in this exciting area of technology.

“By making investment in technology now, it will ensure that in 10 years time the UK is at the forefront of the global race when it comes to commercialising new technologies.”

The funding comes from the Technology Strategy Board, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

These companies are developing applications and industrial processes that could significantly impact many sectors including healthcare and pharmaceuticals, resulting in economic growth and job creation

Iain Gray, chief executive of the Technology Strategy Board, said: “Synthetic biology is an emerging technology that can play a really important part in the UK’s economy. Our aim in supporting these projects is to help bring together a range of organisations that together, with our help, can develop the products and processes to ensure that the UK remains at the forefront of this sector.”

Welcoming the investment, Steve Bates, chief executive of the BioIndustry Association, said: "We are pleased to see much-needed support going to projects and companies in a rapidly-growing part of the biotechnology sector. These companies are developing applications and industrial processes that could significantly impact many sectors including healthcare and pharmaceuticals, resulting in economic growth and job creation."

For a full list of the companies awarded funding, click here.

Companies