20 July 2012

Synbio singled out by UK as main source of future growth

New report outlines huge promise for harvesting the potential of synthetic biology in the UK, where the novel research field is believed to become a very significant deliverer of industrial growth and employment.

For UK academia and industry, Synthetic biology is now set to become a major focal point as described in “A Synthetic Roadmap for the UK” published by the UK Technology Strategy Board last week for the UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.

"Synthetic Biology has the ability to revolutionise major industries in bioenergy and biotechnology in the UK. If we develop this exciting area to its full potential there are fantastic opportunities in sectors such as biofuel and medical care that are largely untapped. This roadmap positions the UK as a leader in global synthetic biology, which presents significant growth and employment opportunities,” says UK Minister for Universities and Science, David Willets, commenting on the roadmap. 

The Minister’s comments are supported by the fact that the market potential for synthetic biology is rapidly growing. A recent BBC research assessment done on behalf of Global Information Inc. concluded that the value of the global synthetic biology market will grow from $1.6bn in 2011 to $10.8bn in 2016.

The synbio roadmap foresees application potential in several areas, especially within areas such as biosensors to identify infections and diseases and trigger localized drug delivery, more personalized medicines tailored to an individual’s specific requirements, improved waste treatments and bioremediation and more cost-effective routes to renewable chemicals, materials and fuels.

To reach this goal, the roadmap, produced by an independent panel of experts for the government's Department for Business Innovation and Skills, recommends actions in five specific areas: 

1: Invest in a network of multidisciplinary centers to establish an outstanding UK synthetic biology resource

2: Build a skilled, energized and well-funded UK-wide synthetic biology community

3: Invest to accelerate technology responsibly to market

4: Assume a leading international role

5: Establish a leadership council

Funding for synthetic biology has been consistently applied by UK research councils since 2007, totalling more than £62M to date. Funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council to date is £39.7M and additional funding is due to be announced soon, including the results from a call for long-term, large-scale grants within which synthetic biology for white biotechnology was a priority.