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Launch of Manchester’s new Synthetic Biology Research Centre

MBS is playing a key role in the launch of a new centre into the study of synthetic biology in Manchester.

Business Secretary Vince Cable recently announced a major funding package into this cutting-edge research, including awards for three new Synthetic Biology Research Centres in Manchester, Edinburgh and Warwick.

The Manchester Institute of Biotechnology will receive £10.3m to set up the Centre for Synthetic Biology of Fine and Speciality Chemicals (SYNBIOCHEM), a Centre which will design and engineer biological parts, devices and systems for sustainable fine and speciality chemicals production, including new products and intermediates for drug development, agricultural chemicals and new materials for sustainable manufacturing.

The impact that synthetic biology will have both inside and outside of science will be a key area of research for MBS. Professor Philip Shapira from the Manchester Institute of Innovation Research is team leader of SYNBIOCHEM’s responsible research and innovation group. He said: “Our group, which includes researchers in innovation and policy, humanities, science and ethics, and sustainable innovation systems, will work as part of SYNBIOCHEM and with companies, non-profits organisations, government and the public.”

Shapira said while synthetic biology is expected to underpin many novel processes and products, it also raises societal considerations about ethics, environment, health and safety, the ownership of re-engineered natural organisms, regulation, market acceptability, and effects on existing sectors and workforces. “A key goal is to help the Centre identify and address societal concerns in upstream research and development phases, so that innovations can be shaped to ensure responsible approaches and solutions,” he added.
Other MBS researchers involved in the SYNBIOCHEM responsible research and innovation group include Sally Randles, Abdullah Gök, Yanchao Li and Xiao Lian from the Manchester Institute of Innovation Research. They are joined by Andrew Balmer (Sociology), Sarah Chan (Institute for Science, Ethics, and Innovation) and Adisa Azapagic (Sustainable Industrial Systems).

Read the Guardian blog by Phil Shapira and Abdullah Gok >>