University of Manchester wins grant for biotechnology

By University of Manchester | January 15, 2015

Scientists at The University of Manchester have been awarded nearly £3 million ($4.55 million) to develop new sustainable ways of manufacturing the chemicals used in thousands of our everyday products.

Professor Nigel Scrutton and his team at the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology are one of five beneficiaries of the BBSRC’s Strategic Longer and Larger Grants (sLoLaS) scheme which funds high-value long-term research projects.

Fossil fuels currently provide the raw material for the manufacture of many everyday products that we take for granted including pharmaceuticals, food and drink, plastics and personal care. The combined effect of fossil carbon depletion and climate change are forcing us to replace fossil fuels with cleaner more sustainable forms of energy.

Professor Scrutton’s five year research program is at the heart of this agenda. His team will design bespoke biological parts and assemble them in novel ways to create a biobased production pipeline within a synthetic, engineered microbial biofactory. By adopting a production pipeline that embraces the “design-build-test-deploy” life-cycle they will turn knowledge assets into innovative chemicals production solutions to support industrial and academic drug discovery programs.  

Professor Scrutton says the £3 million grant is a substantial boost for Manchester. “Our vision is to harness the power of Synthetic Biology to propel chemicals and natural products production towards ’green’ and sustainable manufacturing processes. More broadly, the program will provide the general tools, technology platforms and SynBio 'know-how' that will impact widely in the sustainable manufacture of chemicals and natural products for development by the industrial sector.”

In total £15.8 million is being handed to five research teams as part of the sLola scheme which aims to provide world-leading teams long-term funding and resources to address major challenges. The projects were chosen based on their scientific excellence; because they required long timescales, extensive resources and/or multidisciplinary approaches and because they involve internationally leading research teams.

Greg Clark, Minister for Universities, Science and Cities, said: “This funding will support world-leading research teams in Sheffield, Kent, Manchester, Glasgow and Oxford to address research gaps in bioscience for the benefit of the U.K.

“From harnessing the sun’s power for better biofuel production to investigating how to reduce costs for British sheep farmers, these research projects supported by almost £16 million from government will help to find long-term solutions to some of our biggest challenges in areas like health, energy and agriculture.” 

Professor Jackie Hunter, BBSRC chief executive, said, “BBSRC’s sLoLaS scheme gives world-leading scientists based in the UK long-term funding to work on critical research challenges. In this round those challenges include producing clean energy, new ways to produce medicines and other valuable chemicals, and protecting livestock from disease.  

“Not only will these funded projects help the U.K. and the world to address these challenges, but it will build vital research capacity here in the U.K. and provide opportunities for economic and social benefits.”