Synthetic Biology

Collaboration within Synthetic Biology was led by UEA’s Professor Tamas Dalmay, with Professor Christine Raines from Essex and Professor Mark Smales from Kent.

This fast-moving field combines advances in biological understanding with engineering principles to design and construct new biological devices or systems for a range of uses, from new materials and biofuels to medical treatments. Advances within the field are happening at increasing speed and with lower costs than ever before.

The rational design or re-design of living systems using engineering principles to construct new or adapted phenotypes that do not normally exist in nature, has become a key priority area in the life sciences. With the advent of affordable and rapid genomics, synthetic biology provides huge, novel and diverse opportunities to tackle many of the grand societal challenges of today, including the RCUK strategic priorities of food security, bioenergy, industrial biotechnology, and healthy ageing, within the context of environmental and social considerations.

Synthetic Biology at UEA

The Faculty of Science at UEA has a diverse research portfolio in synthetic biology, including:

Synthetic Biology at Essex

Research undertaken at Essex complemented existing topics of investigation in the Environmental and Plant Biosciences (EPB) group. Areas of interest included:

  • Construction of small molecule sensors based on fluorescent proteins
  • Re-construction of plant metabolic pathways in yeast, algae and plants for the synthesis of biofuels, bioplastics, diverse natural products (from antimicrobials to carotenoids), and bioremediation
  • Development of synthetic transcription factors that respond to environmental or chemical signals
  • Development of robust and adaptable genome editing tools for manipulation of plant processes

International engagement is an essential feature of Essex’s activities to ensure our research is of global societal relevance and, as a result, we are involved in extensive collaborations with industry both in the UK and internationally. Our centres, groups and units all contribute to a multidisciplinary approach to biological science.

Synthetic Biology at Kent

The Sciences Faculty at Kent has developing depth and strengths in applied synthetic biology research. Example projects include: