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The UK Centre for Engineering Biology, Metrology and Standards

The need

The Government identified biotechnology and bioeconomy as key areas for the growth, in the UK’s Industrial Strategy. In particular, synthetic biology is seen as having huge potential to cut across different concepts, capabilities and technologies and transform processes within industry and biological research in the UK.

However, appropriate standards are needed to ensure harmonisation across synthetic biology and underline confidence in the performance of any new products. There are also many variables to factor in when looking to scale-up the production of a synthetic biology product.

A new Centre for Engineering Biology, Metrology and Standards will provide the measurements and standards needed to help the UK synthetic biology industry improve the manufacturing and adoption of new products. Underpinning this is a virtual laboratory established by NPL and partners including SynbiCITE at Imperial College London – the Innovation and Knowledge Centre (IKC) dedicated to the commercialisation of synthetic biology – LGC and NIBSC.

The impact

The new virtual lab will develop and provide relevant reference materials and methods in the form of a toolbox. Through this, we will aim to improve the reproducibility of research results that will help convert innovation in synthetic biology into valuable products and services across a range of industrial fields, from health to bioenergy.

Establishing industry-led measurements and standards will safeguard the quality and safety of products, and allow companies to maintain competitiveness and enhance innovation. Industry confidence in the higher order biological reference materials that we develop will be ensured through their validation and certification by the UK's National Measurement System. Applications that will benefit most include advanced therapies such as gene, cell and regenerative therapies, as well as the discovery and manufacture of new antibiotics.

Funding for the project is provided as part of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund  that seeks to help translate the UK's scientific expertise into real life treatments, and will focus on accelerating the application of synthetic biology in life sciences.