Research Themes

Synthetic Biology is the design of new biological parts, devices and systems or redesign of natural biological systems, with improved or desirable functions. The UK government and Research Councils recognize and support Synthetic Biology as a radical new approach that embeds the principles of design and engineering in biology. This emerging and dynamic field has the potential to provide solutions to some of the key challenges faced by society, including those in healthcare, energy and the environment. As a result, in recent years the Research Councils have allocated £70M in responsive- mode funding in the area and supported wider engagement activities such as the Public Dialogue on Synthetic Biology. Recently the UK government commissioned a Synthetic Biology Roadmap, which presents a vision and direction for Synthetic Biology in the UK: it projects that the global Synthetic Biology market will grow from $1.6bn in 2011 to $10.8bn by 2016. The growth of Synthetic Biology as a research and technology development area in the UK is second only to developments in the US. There, recent Synthetic Biology centers are established at MIT and UCSF, while industrial support for Synthetic Biology resulted in several multi-institution initiatives such as the BioFab and SynBerc, and innovative start-up companies such as GinkoBio. In Europe and Israel several Synthetic Biology initiatives are currently being developed with significant interest from industry.

The SynBioCDT is an exciting development within this dynamis and emerging Synthetic Biology landscape. It aims to close an important training gap in Synthetic Biology and constitutes the first Centre on PhD level training in Synthetic Biology. The SynBioCDT will draw on the breadth and depth of multi- disciplinary expertise within the research environment at the Universities of Oxford, Bristol and Warwick to offer comprehensive training in the design and engineering of biologically based parts, devices and systems as well as the re-design of existing, natural biological systems across all scales from molecules to organisms. Training will encompass not only individual cells but also self- assembled biomimetic systems, engineered microbial communities and multicellular organisms, combining the multiple perspectives of engineering, life and physical sciences. This breadth of coverage will produce a skilled, energized and well-funded UK-wide synthetic biology community with the opportunity to revolutionise major industries in bio-energy and bio-technology in the UK. For more information on the vision and context of the specialized Synthetic Biology training that will be offered at SynBioCDT, please refer to “programme section”.

The SynBioCDT and its leading academics are well-linked to industrial and academic partners in the UK and worldwide allowing graduates of this program to plug into a global network of emerging Synthetic Biology centers and opportunities.

Educational and general links on Synthetic Biology: