£11.4m boost for healthcare research

Research into drug discovery and healthcare at the University will be accelerated with a multi-million pound investment.

Scientists are to receive £11.4 million over five years for a new centre to advance research in synthetic biology - the design of biological organisms with new or improved functions.

Researchers will explore how stem cells can be reprogrammed for use in personalised medicines, help to create improved safety tests for new treatment, and build tools to help identify new types of drugs.

Emerging discipline

Applying this powerful technology for human medicine is still in its infancy but Edinburgh is well positioned to take a lead with its pioneering research in cell biology, stem cells and epigenetics.

Professor Susan RosserSchool of Biological Sciences and Engineering

The award to the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Mammalian Synthetic Biology was announced by Rt Hon Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business, Industry and Skills.

It is part of a £40 million UK-wide investment in the emerging discipline.

As part of the new investment, researchers at Edinburgh will also lead two collaborative projects.

These will help create the building blocks of synthetic biology - fragments of DNA needed to create useful biological components.

These projects include a £2.4 million plan by the Universities of Edinburgh and Liverpool to study the rapid design and synthesis of DNA circuits.

An additional £2 million project involving the University of Cambridge and the Genome Analysis Centre will seek to enhance the national capacity of synthetic DNA design and manufacture.

It will also work to ensure the UK is internationally competitive in the field.

UK investment

Synthetic biology research centres will also be created at the Universities of Manchester and Warwick.

The £40 million investment is made by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the Medical Research Council and the UK Government.

This new funding recognises Edinburgh’s role as one of the leaders of synthetic biology in the UK. We are excited about bringing together two of the university's strengths: regenerative medicine and systems and synthetic biology.

Professor Peter SwainDirector, SynthSys, University of Edinburgh