8 March 2013

UCLB spinout company,  Synthace Ltd, has been awarded funding from the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) for a collaborative project to be undertaken with UCL and the University of Manchester.

Synthace is one of a small number of highly innovative  companies working in the  synthetic biology arena  who received part of a £5.3 million government cash injection into R&D for this highly topical  area.

Synthetic biology is an emerging, multidisciplinary approach at the intersection of engineering, bioscience, chemistry, and information technology which  aims to design and engineer novel biologically-based parts, devices and systems, and redesign existing natural biological systems.

The project that Synthace will lead integrates several novel technologies as reusable components, including the highly controlled import and export of chemicals from a cell, and the ability to rapidly tune the amount of each part used to assist in the production of a chemical inside the cell. By utilising technologies already within the Synthace platform, it enables the engineering of a cell into a limit that has the potential to convert low value feedstocks such as vegetable oils into much higher value chemicals such as pharmaceutical ingredients, fragrances, and pigments. The ability to use more complex feedstocks than simple sugars, and to rapidly tune the parts, reduces the complexity required to develop a cellular factory, and thus the time, cost, and risk associated with such a project. This in turn opens up many more chemical products for bioproduction rather than use of traditional chemical synthesis, with commensurate advantages in waste production, energy intensity, and in many cases, cost.

Speaking during a visit today to Synthace laboratories, Universities and Science Minister David Willetts said: “Synthetic biology is one of eight key technology areas that I have identified as playing an increasingly important part in the global economy over the coming years. The UK is well-positioned in the biological sciences sector and is among the first economies in the world to invest in this exciting area of technology.

“Companies like Synthace can help the UK exploit the massive potential that synthetic biology has both here and abroad. By making investment in technology now, it will ensure that in ten years’ time the UK is at the forefront of the global race when it comes to commercialising new technologies.”

Synthace’s CEO, Sean Ward, commented,“This funding will enable us to bring together a unique suite of technologies for the rapid engineering of a micro-organism which can produce a commercially high-value chemical. The project will demonstrate a new way of engineering biology, with timescales in months rather than years, which will impact sectors across the UK and global economies.”

Marina Santilli, Senior Business Manager at UCLB, said “Synthace have developed a unique methodology in the synthetic biology sector which is attracting significant attention. The team are pulling together best of breed IP with origins not just in UCL but other leading UK universities. I’m delighted that Synthace is able to further develop its relationships with the university sector through this collaborative TSB award which brings in UCL and Manchester University as partners and look forward to a successful technology transfer outcome.”

Links

About Synthace
Synthace is the UK’s first dedicated synthetic biology company with a world-leading platform of technologies for the rapid engineering and optimisation of novel biological production systems.

A spin out of University College London, Synthace is already producing high-value research and development products for the pharmaceutical, agrochemical and fine chemicals industry. Synthace bioengineering is enabled by a tight integration of computational modelling and big data analysis with wet lab experimental design and validation, and novel molecular biology tools. While Synthace bioengineering is broadly applicable across multiple industry sectors, the company is focused towards applications in the production of specialty chemicals.

More information is available at: www.synthace.com

About the Technology Strategy Board
The Technology Strategy Board is the UK’s innovation agency.Its goal is to accelerate economic growth by stimulating and supporting business-led innovation.  Sponsored by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), the Technology Strategy Board brings together business, research and the public sector, supporting and accelerating the development of innovative products and services to meet market needs, tackle major societal challenges and help build the future economy.

For more information, please visit: www.innovateuk.org

About the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)
BBSRC invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond. Funded by Government, and with an annual budget of around £500M (2012-2013), we support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.

For more information about BBSRC, our science and our impact see: http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk
For more information about BBSRC strategically funded institutes see: http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/institutes

About The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)
EPSRC is the UK’s main agency for funding research in engineering and the physical sciences. EPSRC invests around £800 million a year in research and postgraduate training, to help the nation handle the next generation of technological change. The areas covered range from information technology to structural engineering, and mathematics to materials science. This research forms the basis for future economic development in the UK and improvements for everyone’s health, lifestyle and culture. EPSRC works alongside other Research Councils with responsibility for other areas of research. The Research Councils work collectively on issues of common concern via Research Councils UK.

For more information, visit: www.epsrc.ac.uk

About UCLB
UCLB is a leading technology transfer company that supports and commercialises research and innovations arising from UCL, one of the UK’s top research-led universities.

UCLB has a successful track record and a strong reputation for identifying and protecting promising new technologies and innovations from UCL academics. It invests directly in development projects to maximise the potential of the research and manages the commercialisation process of technologies from the laboratory to market.

UCLB supports UCL’s Grand Challenges of increasing UCL’s positive impact on and contribution to Global Health, Sustainable Cities, Intercultural Interaction and Human Wellbeing.

For further information, please visit: www.uclb.com