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Metrology for engineering biology

Developing biophysical measurements to quantify biological systems and processes

The recent Life Sciences Industrial Strategy and the Industrial Strategy White Paper highlight the importance of synthetic or engineering biology for the production of new advanced medicines and therapeutics. Engineering biology cuts across different concepts, capabilities and technologies which need validating before they are ready for commercialisation. There are also many variables to factor in when looking to scale-up a synthetic biology product. All of these need to be referenced to standards to provide certainty in the consistency of the product performance, and confidence in the ability to measure and evaluate key performance parameters. These are key attributes in deciding which products are adopted, and ultimately commercialised, by industry.

In response to this, we are establishing a measurement framework for engineering biology to support bottom-up synthetic biology and bio-manufacturing processes in cellulo (intracellular) and in vitro (cell-free). The framework is built upon the principles of modularisation which defines biological parts as molecular units of biological activity that can be assembled into systems or devices. Modularisation applies across all scales of engineering biology: cells, cell-free systems, and protein assemblies. Each of these can serve as a functional component or product with a market niche requiring more and better standards.

We develop standards by addressing specific measurement challenges faced by industry today and provide them as a toolbox of reference protocols, materials and best-practice guides. Our approach is aligned with national priorities focusing on advancing regenerative, cell and gene therapies, as well as the discovery of novel antibiotics.

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