UCL News


UCL Spin-out Synthace awarded £500,000 Synthetic Biology Grant

7 March 2013

Synthace, a UCL spin-out, has been awarded funding from the Technology Strategy Board for a collaborative project with UCL and the University of Manchester.

UCL's Bernard Katz building, right, home of Synthace

The company was one of over a dozen cutting-edge synthetic biology companies which received part of a £5.3 million government cash injection into research in this area, with the investment from the Technology Strategy Board and Research Councils helping to fund 15 projects across the UK.

Synthetic biology is an emerging, multidisciplinary approach at the intersection of engineering, bioscience, chemistry, and information technology, and builds atop many areas of innovation in which the UK has traditionally been a world leader. It aims to design and engineer novel biologically based parts, devices and systems, as well as redesign existing natural biological systems.

"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," says Sean Ward, Synthace's CEO. "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."

"UCL is a global powerhouse of biomedical research and we have an unstinting commitment to maximising the benefit of medical research for patients"

Professor Stephen Caddick, UCL

Speaking during a visit to Sythace's laboratories at UCL on Thursday, Universities and Science Minister David Willetts said that synthetic biology is one of the eight key areas identified by the Government as playing an increasingly important part of the global economy in 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," he said. "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."

The Minister announced grants totalling £5.3 million which were awarded through a competition for business-led, collaborative projects aimed at demonstrating the feasibility of using synthetic biology to create novel or improved products or processes.

Funding came from the Technology Strategy Board, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

"UCL is a global powerhouse of biomedical research and we have an unstinting commitment to maximising the benefit of medical research for patients," added Professor Stephen Caddick, Vice-Provost for Enterprise at UCL.

"Synthetic Biology is an emerging area with enormous potential for innovation and we have been supporting Synthace, one of our spinout companies, for several years. I am delighted that they have won this external recognition and funding for their exciting approach.

"I look forward to following the next stages in their journey to success, and in doing so maintaining UCL's commitment to ensuring research leads to commercial innovation and benefits to society at large."



Technology Strategy Board