Minister for Life Sciences George Freeman MP visited SynbiCITE at Imperial College London, the UK innovation and knowledge centre for synthetic biology, on 24th February 2016 to announce the release of the UK Synthetic Biology Strategic Plan 2016 — Biodesign for the Bioeconomy.
This strategic plan, published by the Synthetic Biology Leadership Council (SBLC), aims to accelerate the commercialisation of synthetic biology products and services with clear public benefit, building upon the strength of the UK research base. It focuses on five key areas of strategic importance:
- Accelerating industrialisation and commercialisation
- Maximising the capability of the innovation pipeline
- Building an expert workforce
- Developing a supportive business environment, and
- Building value from national and international partnerships.
It builds on the recommendations made in the Synthetic Biology Roadmap for the UK, which was first published by Innovate UK in 2012. The roadmap led directly to major funding and policy activities, including the establishment of new synthetic biology research centres, the Innovation and Knowledge Centre at SynbiCITE, DNA synthesis facilities, training centres and a seed fund for innovative companies. In addition, the Synthetic Biology Leadership Council (SBLC) was founded to manage the continued growth of this field.
During 2015, the Synthetic Biology Leadership Council (SBLC) consulted a broad cross-section of businesses and the research community to develop this new strategic plan, building upon the successes of the 2012 roadmap.
Life Sciences Minister George Freeman MP said: "Synthetic biology involves designing and adapting biological systems to deliver new solutions to key challenges across the bioeconomy including global health and clean energy production. With help from government investment in world-class research facilities, including £50m for dedicated research centres, DNA facilities and training, UK capability in synthetic biology has made rapid progress in recent years and we are now in pole position to capitalise on this potential. This strategy sets out a clear plan to ensure the UK maintains its position as a global leader by taking our world-leading research and turning it into commercial opportunities."
Professor Lionel Clarke, Co-Chair of the SBLC said: "We are extremely fortunate to have such a vibrant and committed community within the UK that has drawn upon its collective experience and contributed so effectively to shaping the next steps forward. The 2012 UK Synthetic Biology Roadmap helped establish firm foundations of technical excellence, responsibility in research and innovation, proportionate regulation and governance. Guided by the additional recommendations captured in this strategic plan, I am confident that synthetic biology enabled biodesign will deliver a broad range of valuable products and services of clear public benefit, making an increasingly significant contribution to the UK bioeconomy for many years to come."
Dr Tim Fell, CEO of Synthace, Chairman of the UK Bioindustry Association's Synthetic Biology Advisory Committee and member of the SBLC said: "With this tremendously insightful strategic plan there can be no doubt the UK is committed to embracing the power of biology to address global challenges. This document's vision of an expert workforce able to employ the digitisation of biology through software, standards and flexible automation, all within a supportive business and regulatory framework is a credit to the UK synthetic biology community who came together to create it, and who are already driving towards it."
Dr Ted Fjallman, CEO of Prokarium Ltd, said: "Prokarium has benefited greatly from the first SynBio roadmap in terms of R&D projects launched in the UK as well as national and international relationships that have been built as a result of our R&D within SynbiCITE and the trade missions and conferences organised by the BIA, UKTI and SynbiCITE. For Prokarium this has led to direct investment from Sweden, which has allowed us to develop several vaccines to preclinical proof of concept; some of which are sought after in fast growing markets in Asia. We look forward to being a part of the second roadmap!"
Dr David Venables, CEO of Synpromics, a provider of cutting edge synthetic biology tools, said: "Synpromics welcomes the publication of this strategic plan and the acknowledgement that, whilst synthetic biology has huge potential for improving biological processes, for the UK to remain at the forefront of innovation it will require translation of ground breaking research into new businesses and novel products and services. Therefore, the actions identified to promote investment in research and translation, and to create a supportive business environment are to be welcomed."
Dr Ruth McKernan, Chief Executive of Innovate UK, the UK's innovation agency said: "Business-led innovation in synthetic biology creates industries for the future. We need to commercialise this technology and drive growth in the bioeconomy – this area is ripe for investment. Turning excellent research into commercial success is what Innovate UK is all about."
Photos: Courtesy of SynbiCITE at Imperial College London