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Engineering biology

A UK centre for engineering biology metrology and standards

Leading development of engineering biology metrology and standards

As the UK’s National Metrology Institute, NPL has established collaborations to support development of a roadmap for engineering biology, metrology and standards development. Initial investment through Science and Technology Facilities Council enabled the development of a virtual institute established by NPL and partners. This included other National Measurement System organisations, LGC and National Institute for Biological Standards and Control, along with SynbiCITE at Imperial College London. We are now working to expand these activities and continue the development of the analytical methods, traceable reference materials, documentary standards and process control tools needed to help the UK engineering biology industry. Future initiatives will expand on these tools and enable the effective commercialisation of synthetic biology while improving manufacturing processes and driving the safe adoption of new products and processes.

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Enabling the potential of engineering biology

The application of biological systems, cells and processes are the foundation of engineering biology and present enormous opportunities for innovation and new approaches to manufacturing. However these present reproducibility and standardisation challenges which must be overcome if we are to effectively develop the enormous opportunities available. Delivering the best possible outputs from engineering biology collaboration requires ensuring the reproducibility and traceability of measurement results achieved using suitable reference materials and reference measurement procedures.  NPL’s expertise is being applied to deliver these vital tools, providing the metrology expertise for the effective characterisation, control and reproducible manipulation of biological systems.

Toolbox of reference materials and methods to innovation in EngBio

Synbio reference materialsThere are many variables to consider in engineering biology processes, each of which need to be referenced to agreed standards to provide certainty in manufacturing consistency and confidence in the ability to measure and evaluate key performance parameters. These are key attributes in deciding which products and processes are adopted and commercialised.

NPL’s engineering biology research and development programmes are addressing specific measurement challenges faced by industry. We are developing a toolbox of reference materials and methods, calibrants, cells, documented standards and best-practice guides.


Building a measurement framework to underpin growth in engineering biology

In response to the metrology challenges presented by engineering biology, NPL are establishing a measurement framework for engineering biology to support a bottom-up approach to control bio-manufacturing processes, both in-cellulo (intracellular) and in-vitro (cell-free). A framework approach, built upon the principles of modularisation which defines biological parts as molecular units of biological activity that can be more effectively and repeatably delivered enables assembly into systems or devices. Modularisation applies across all scales of engineering biology including nucleic acids, cells, cell-free systems and protein assemblies. Each of these can serve as a functional component or product within an engineering biology process requiring improved standardisation.

Si-traceable reference standards to support EngBio innovation

Nanoscale and cell rulers

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Our research and measurement solutions support innovation and product development. We work with companies to deliver business advantage and commercial success.
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