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Synthetic biology in the real world: Case studies

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Plants as bio-factories

By Caroline Channing

The CPMV-HT (Cowpea Mosaic Virus-HyperTranslatable) expression system, developed by Prof George Lomonossoff and Dr Frank Sainsbury at the John Innes Centre, has established a unique position for the UK for rapid transient expression of proteins in plants.

The technology is extremely powerful and was used under licence by the Canadian company Medicago to produce 10m effective doses of H1N1 (swine flu) VLP Vaccine in just 30 days, while the traditional route would have taken 9 – 12 months.

Taking a synthetic biology approach, researchers at the OpenPlant SBRC (University of Cambridge, John Innes Centre and The Sainsbury Laboratory) are finding the CPMV-HT technology highly amenable for expression of plant natural product biosynthetic pathways for the production of high-value chemicals. 

UK Strategic Plan for Synthetic Biology 2016

Click on the image above to download the UK Synthetic Biology Strategic Plan 2016

New synthetic biology technologies are starting to offer exciting opportunities across a range of industries including manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, biofuels and health.

Research Council funding in collaboration with a wide variety of national and international partners across academia and industry, is supporting the long-term growth of UK synthetic biology, development of a highly skilled workforce and an infrastructure to underpin and enable cutting edge research in industry and academia, as well as providing support for synthetic biology start-up companies.

The pervasive potential of synthetic biology is brought to life through a series of case studies ranging from a biosensor toolkit with the ability to treat chronic conditions such as diabetes through to using enzymes from yeast mould to unlock cleaner routes to producing biofuel.

The wide ranging applications of synthetic biology will play an important role in growing the UK's bioeconomy, creating new jobs and ensuring the UK is a world leader in this area.

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