Centre for Engineering Biology

Our Centre

Our history and organisation

The Centre for Engineering Biology (formerly SynthSys) is a community of more than 50 research groups and 200 researchers spanning biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, engineering, informatics, medicine and social sciences.  Our research is broad and deep, addressing a diversity of scientific questions with wide ranging impacts for society, industry, the economy and our planet

Our researchers explore fundamental biological questions about living cells and systems and apply these insights – often in collaboration with industry – to create innovations for many markets including industrial biotechnology (including bioremediation and biofuels), agriculture, the environment, and medicine and healthcare.


Our History

C.H Waddington Building
C.H Waddington Building

Systems biology aims to understand how genes and proteins interact and endow cells with the characteristics associated with life, such as the ability to sense, move, grow and reproduce. 

The first centre for systems biology at Edinburgh was founded in 2007 through a BBSRC/EPSRC award to Professor Andrew Millar and others. As one of six Centres for Integrative Systems Biology funded by the UK Government, it established Edinburgh as a centre of excellence.  The creation of the Centre led to the construction of the Waddington Building, which became the Centre's headquarters. The building was named after Conrad H Waddington, an eminent geneticist at the University of Edinburgh and the 'father of epigenetics'. 

The University established a Centre for Synthetic and Systems Biology (SynthSys) in 2012 to capture its growing research strengths in synthetic biology.

In October 2015,  the UK Centre for Mammalian Synthetic Biology opened -  funded by the BBSRC/EPSRC/MRC as part of the UK Research Councils' Synthetic Biology for Growth programme. This Centre brought together research in synthetic biology as applied to medicine and healthcare.

A 2022 transition award in Engineering Biology for Cell and Gene Therapy Applications derives from and builds upon this investment.  It offers an opportunity to build a new phase of activities that harness and exploit recently developed underpinning tools for engineering mammalian systems into new Cell and Gene Therapy applications.

In November 2022 SynthSys was relaunched as the Centre for Engineering Biology to expand the  centre scope and attract new interdisciplinary collaborations at the interface of biology.