New synthetic biology research facility in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Edinburgh receives £1.8 M from the BBSRC

Pioneering developments in medicine and other key areas of scientific discovery could be accelerated with the creation of a new research facility in the School of Biological Sicences at the University of Edinburgh.

Scientists at the centre, to be known as the Edinburgh Genome Foundry, will build and study DNA to inform the development of products with applications in health, agriculture and biofuels.

R:  Susan Rosser; L:  Patrick Yizhi Cai

The Foundry’s researchers will seek to create and modify long strands of DNA that can be used to equip cells or organisms with new or improved functions.

This could lead to advances such as developing bacteria that can detect disease in the gut, programming stem cells for use in personalised medicines, or altering the DNA of biofuel crops to enable a higher yield.

Other applications could include creating synthetic viruses to aid the development of more effective vaccines, engineering cells that can be used to produce novel drugs or clean fuels, and tests to detect the multiple changes in cancer cells,

Researchers at the Foundry will design and manufacture genetic material on an unprecedented scale, using highly automated robotics. They will be able to design and build large, complex pieces of DNA code quickly at relatively low cost.

Scientists will seek to build on their research through collaborations with academic partners around the world and to develop commercial applications with industry.

The Foundry, to be established in newly refurbished labs within the University of Edinburgh’s School of Biological Sciences, will be supported by £1.8 million from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.

Professor Susan Rosser, co-director of the facility, said:

This further strengthens Edinburgh’s position as a leading centre for synthetic biology in the UK. Being able to build DNA on a large scale accelerates our ability to understand how cells and organisms operate.”

Dr Patrick Yizhi Cai, another co-director of the facility, commented:

We are thrilled to develop and host the Edinburgh Genome Foundry, the first of its kind in the world. This is a great example of how interdisciplinary research and technology innovation can accelerate discoveries that benefit society.

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