Synthetic Biology Research Centre launches

13 Jan 2015 12:01:32.763

The University of Nottingham is officially marking the opening of its Synthetic Biology Research Centre (SBRC), which 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), will be marked with an official opening on Wednesday 14 January 2015.

During the event there will be speakers including Dr Celia Caulcott, Executive Director for Innovation and Skills from the BBSRC, Professor Nigel Minton, SBRC Director and Professor Sir David Greenaway, the University’s Vice-Chancellor.

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There will also be tours of the SBRC facilities and a public lecture on synthetic biology from guest lecturer Professor Paul Martin from the University of Sheffield.

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.

Breaking society’s reliance on oil

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.

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Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham has 43,000 students and is ‘the nearest Britain has to a truly global university, with campuses in China and Malaysia modelled on a headquarters that is among the most attractive in Britain’ (Times Good University Guide 2014). It is also one of the most popular universities in the UK among graduate employers, in the top 10 for student experience according to the Times Higher Education and winner of ‘Research Project of the Year’ at the THE Awards 2014. It is ranked in the world’s top one per cent of universities by the QS World University Rankings, and 8th in the UK by research power according to REF 2014.

The University of Nottingham in Malaysia (UNMC) is holding events throughout 2015 to celebrate 15 years as a pioneer of transnational education. Based in Semenyih, UMNC was established as the UK's first overseas campus in Malaysia and one of the first world-wide.

Impact: The Nottingham Campaign, its biggest-ever fundraising campaign, is delivering the University’s vision to change lives, tackle global issues and shape the future. More news…

Story credits

More information is available from Louise Dynes Outreach and Communications Officer – SBRC on +44 (0)115 748 4095,

Charlotte Anscombe – Media Relations Manager (Arts and Social Sciences)

Email:  Phone:+44 (0)115 74 84 417 Location: University Park

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