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Science and Technology Secretary announces Engineering Biology investment

13 February 2024

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£100 million has been awarded by the Government today to help pioneer new technologies that will help prepare for pandemics, innovate farming, and protect against floods.

The money will support six new ‘Engineering Biology Mission Hubs’ and 22 ‘Mission Award’ projects across the country that will look to build on Engineering Biology’s enormous potential to address global challenges, drive economic growth, and increase national resilience.

Organisations from Norwich Research Park will be involved with these hubs and award projects. Two of the mission award projects will involve Earlham Institute scientists, scientists based at the Quadram Institute are part of consortia awarded two major new Engineering Biology hub grants and UEA researchers are involved in two of the Hubs as well.

Dr Nicola Patron, group leader at the Earlham Institute, will be leading one of the Mission Awards and supporting another led by the neighbouring John Innes Centre.

In response to the funding announcement, Dr Patron said:“Engineers use prototyping and modelling to predict the impact of changes and how to improve their designs. In our lab, we apply those same principles to biology.

“This funding will support the use of engineering biology to identify how we can use targeted genetic technologies to enhance plants in two ways; by accelerating the development of resistance to fungal diseases and to use plants as factories for valuable molecules.

One of the Engineering Biology Mission Hub grants has been awarded to a group aiming to use biology to recover and recycle rare earth minerals, led by principal investigator Professor Martin Warren of the Quadram Institute and University of Kent. Named Environmental Processing and Recovery of Metals (ELEMENTAL), the hub aims to address the growing need for critical minerals and metals in clean energy technologies and promote a circular economy.

The second award involves the Quadram Institute’s Deputy Chief Scientific Officer Professor Nathalie Juge as a co-investigator in the £12 million GlycoCell Engineering Biology Mission Hub grant led by the University of Nottingham and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

GlycoCell focuses on transforming the biomanufacture of glycans for health by developing platform technology to produce glycans, glycoconjugates, and glycoproteins in microorganisms.

UEA researchers are involved in two of the Hubs which are part of a new £100 million investment from the UK Research and Innovation’s Technology Missions Fund and Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.

This includes the ELEMENTAL hub, but also the Environmental Biotechnology Innovation Centre (EBIC), led by Cranfield University, brings together scientists from ten leading UK institutions in a mission to advance the properties and functions of micro-organisms, creating more effective ways to monitor the environment and remove pollutants.

For more about the UEA’s involvement see the story by UEA here

For more about Earlham Institute’s involvement see the story here

For more about Quadram Institute’s involvement see the story here

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