SynbiCITE - an Imperial College led Innovation and Knowledge Centre (IKC) in Synthetic Biology

Lead Research Organisation: Imperial College London
Department Name: Dept of Bioengineering

Abstract

Synthetic biology is a new and exciting research field that brings together biological scientists and engineers with the aim of developing new ways to build and alter biological systems and cells. Biological cells can perform a vast array of activities driven by instructions, which are encoded by DNA. This DNA makes up the cells genome, which act as a blueprint for different types of cells and is composed of four complementary chemical building blocks called nucleotides (G, C, A and T) linked together in a sequence. The beauty of DNA is that these building blocks pair up specifically (G-C and A-T) thus the DNA template can be easily copied and replicated. The instructions encoded in DNA are translated specifically into an array of large molecules called proteins which act as the engines of the cell performing all the necessary functions for cells to live divide and grow e.g. the conversion of food sources like sugar into energy. Over the last 20 years advances in our ability to 'read' DNA has resulted in the complete genome sequences of a variety of living organisms including humans. These sequences encode the basic instruction parts for that specific organism. More recent advances in the chemical synthesis of DNA, has resulted in our increasing ability to 'write' DNA. Synthetic biology therefore aims to provide an engineering framework that allows researchers to design and write DNA tailored to specific applications such that these new synthetic DNA sequences can be placed in cells to perform specific human defined functions. One overarching aim at present is to develop a series of foundational techniques in synthetic biology such as assembling complex DNA components, characterising the instruction parts in detail and computer modelling of more complex DNA designs such that these can be applied to different applications. One overarching concept for synthetic biology is the development of standard DNA components that can used in an engineering 'design, build and test' cycle to create new biological systems and cells that display defined and predictable functions.

Many researchers, policy makes and national governments anticipate that synthetic biology will provide a range of benefits to society in different industrial sectors including human health; agriculture and food production; environmental protection and remediation; bioenergy and chemical. To accelerate the translation of synthetic biology technology to new applications we propose to establish a national UK Innovation and Knowledge Centre in synthetic biology with three main objectives:

(1) To act as an industrial translation engine which translates university and industry based research in synthetic biology into industrial process and products
(2) To be an effective vehicle for the support of small to medium sized UK companies including Start-ups in synthetic biology
(3) To actively engage in open dialogue with the public and other stakeholders focusing on the risks and benefits of synthetic biology technologies

The IKC aims to place the UK as one of the World's leaders in translating academic synthetic biology research into new products and process but under the framework of 'Responsible Innovation' where the public worth and potential risks of specific applications are considered before such applications are implemented or even reach the market. Such an approach will establish new sustainable synthetic biology industries in the UK, allow other non-UK companies to invest in the UK and develop a skilled workforce in synthetic biology all of which will ultimately lead to new economic growth.

Planned Impact

A number of international bodies including the British Government, the United States Government, the EC and the OECD are predicting that synthetic biology will have a very significant impact on the economy, growth and jobs over the coming years. In a policy statement in 2012, Vince cable, the Business Secretary [Minister] stated that the "Government has identified synthetic biology as one of the three technologies important to growth over the next 20 years".

The aim of the proposed IKC is to perform the important function of academic and business integration by creating an Industrial Translation Engine. The objective is for the IKC to create an effective mechanism to bridge the gap between university-based research and industrial processes to create products and jobs, through industry, for the benefit of the UK economy. The UK has a strong academic science and engineering base. Our plan for the IKC is designed to support existing and new companies to grow the UK sector in line with the international economic predictions for synthetic biology.

The IKC will be industrially oriented. The executive management team who will run the IKC will comprise people with extensive industrial and commercial experience - typically in areas where synthetic biology is likely to have industrial impact. Our proposed CEO is Dr Paul Sharpe - someone with considerable senior management experience and translation expertise in the pharmaceutical industry. It is envisaged that the other senior members of the executive management team will have complimentary backgrounds (e.g. in industrial biotechnology and IT and software engineering). The IKC facility (SynbiCITE) will be located in new-build facilities at the new Imperial College innovation campus and industrial park, currently being built in West London. It will employ additional scientific and support staff. These facilities will house the executive management team and their commercial staff, and a group of dedicated staff scientists and technicians.

Since the IKC is funded through public money, we will seek to demonstrate substantial, positive academic, economic, environmental and societal impact. We will also develop the skills base in synthetic biology by educating a significant number of highly qualified staff. In the first year of the IKC, the objective is that SynbiCITE will become a nationally recognised centre with global reach, building towards critical mass. From the first year, significant number of projects will be passing through the industrial translation engine - some, producing prototypes for test and pilot production. These and others will have a large number of patents and associated IP - with a number of companies benefitting. Over the initial 5 years we expect the IKC to have significant impact in the following areas:

(i) New synthetic biology processes and products in industry (in existing and new companies)
(ii) An improved understanding of the ethical, legal and regulatory impact of synthetic biology - and an accepted framework for Responsible Innovation for emerging technologies
(iii) A significant number of new UK jobs generated
(iv) An enhanced UK skills base - academic and industrial - in synthetic biology
(v) A larger portfolio of successful SMEs and start-ups - generating substantial turnover
(vi) The UK recognised as one of the international leaders in synthetic biology (academic and industrial)
(vii) New environmentally friendly processes to develop "green products"
(viii) A positively engaged public, and wider stakeholder engagement
(ix) Increased industrial funding for synthetic biology

Ultimately the IKC will show its full impact through growing a significant income-generating industry for the benefit of the UK.

Organisations

Publications


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Clarke L (2016) Synthetic biology in the UK - An outline of plans and progress in Synthetic and Systems Biotechnology
Coghlan A (2016) Tiny but mighty in New Scientist
Florea M (2016) Engineering control of bacterial cellulose production using a genetic toolkit and a new cellulose-producing strain. in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Friese C (2014) Making de-extinction mundane? in PLoS biology
 
Description A Synthetic Biology Roadmap for the UK
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Membership of a guideline committee
Impact This report provides the vision and direction for supporting a world-leading synthetic biology community in the UK. Produced by an independent panel of experts for the government's Department for Business Innovation and Skills, it sets out a shared vision for realising the potential of synthetic biology in the UK. The roadmap aims to deliver a synthetic biology sector that is cutting edge; economically vibrant, diverse and sustainable; and of clear public benefit. Recommendations in the roadmap also provide a compass-bearing for the synthetic biology community, helping to align interests towards future growth opportunities, whilst identifying the resources and support needed to accelerate progress in the shorter term.
URL http://www.rcuk.ac.uk/publications/reports/syntheticbiologyroadmap/
 
Description BSI/'SynbiCITE white paper - The ascent of digital biomanufacturing - creating a new manufacturing industry through the development of synthetic biology standards
Geographic Reach Europe 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact Influencing manufacturing using biotechnology technology through the development and dissemination of new biology metrology and standards
URL https://www.bsigroup.com/LocalFiles/en-GB/standards/BSI-Standards-white-paper-The-ascent-of-digital-...
 
Description PAS 246 - Use of standards for digital biological information in the design, construction and description of a synthetic biological system - Guide
Geographic Reach Europe 
Policy Influence Type Implementation circular/rapid advice/letter to e.g. Ministry of Health
Impact PAS 246 - Use of standards for digital biological information in the design, construction and description of a synthetic biological system. Is a standard and guide to the development and use of data pertinent to bio-manufacturing and biotechnology
URL http://shop.bsigroup.com/ProductDetail/?pid=000000000030303883
 
Description UK Synthetic Biology Strategic Plan 2016 - Biodesign for the Bioeconomy.
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
Impact 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.
URL https://connect.innovateuk.org/documents/2826135/31405930/BioDesign+for+the+Bioeconomy+2016+DIGITAL+...
 
Description 4 Day MBA - Business Training - London 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact 32 post-graduate and post-doctoral students participated in the 4-day workshop to develop their business skills and consider how to form a biotech-based start-up business; using their newly-learned skills they had the opportunity to develop a business idea and pitch it to live investors. The course had generated considerable interest and will be run off-site at other institutions 2-3 times in 2016 and will be repeated at Imperial College London in December 2016, again for 30+ participants.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014,2015,2016
URL http://www.synbicite.com/knowledge/biotechnology-mba/
 
Description CPI workshop in Wilton Teesside 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Workshop for manufacturing scale up for start ups. This resulted in increased use of CPI facility
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013,2014
 
Description DSTL Technology showcase 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) is committing up to £18 million over the next 4 years exploring the potential impact of synthetic biology on the UK's defence and security capabilities.

The government has identified synthetic biology as a key high-growth emerging technology. Synthetic biology has been described as the design and engineering of biologically based components, novel devices and systems as well as the redesign of existing, natural biological systems. It has the potential to deliver important new applications and improve existing industrial processes - resulting in economic growth and job creation.

Dstl's Prof Neil Stansfield says:

It is important that Dstl keeps abreast of such emerging technologies, ensuring that our armed forces can benefit from cutting-edge capability. Our programme champions innovation; and works with partners to explore and deliver exciting new technology opportunities for the security and prosperity of the UK.

Dstl is particularly interested in using synthetic biology to produce novel materials which might provide benefits such as enhanced ballistic protection and lightweight armour, or transparent screens and lenses which don't mist up. It is anticipated that within four years a new material for armour, or a new approach to existing materials at reduced cost, will be identified.

Dstl has been showcasing some of its work within the field of synthetic biology to suppliers at an event in Chicheley Hall in Buckinghamshire, including improved boron carbide armour and catalysts for fuel cells.

Attending the conference, Prof Lionel Clarke, Co-Chair of the UK's Synthetic Biology Leadership Council (SBLC) said:

Synthetic biology has the potential to generate innovative solutions to significant technological challenges, and in recent years the UK has invested effectively to support operations at its rapidly advancing leading edge. Events like this allow us to better understand the possibilities that are starting to present themselves, to identify opportunities for collaboration and to benefit more fully from its recent and future development.

Prof Tim Dafforn, Chief Scientific Adviser at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) said:

This conference is a wonderful example of how government departments are working together with industry and academia, to take full advantage of synthetic biology technologies for the benefit of the UK. I look forward to seeing how work in this rapidly developing field progresses in the coming years.

The next phase of funding will be administered through Dstl's Centre for Defence Enterprise (CDE). A themed competition looking for synthetic biology approaches to produce novel materials to address defence challenges will be briefed at a CDE Innovation Network event on 10 February 2016, and the projects selected will build upon Dstl's existing programme.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016,2017
URL https://www.gov.uk/government/news/developing-novel-materials-with-synthetic-biology
 
Description FORNY Forum 2016 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact "The Forny Forum was arranged by Inven2, on behalf of the Norwegian Research Council. Forny is a programme in the Norwegian Research Council. The programme facilitates the commercialisation of results from projects conducted at publicly funded research institutions and helps to bring the products and services to the market. The Forny forum is an annual conference for all the TTOs in Norway. Stephen Chambers attended the meeting and he spoke about 'How will Imperial Collage make the most of Lean going forward?' discussing the benefits of Lean LaunchPad

"
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.inven2.com/no/forny-forum-2016
 
Description House of Lords Investor Breakfast 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Investor education for future business growth developing a synthetic biology industry in the UK
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://synbiobeta.com/conferences/synbiobeta-london-2016/
 
Description ICURe business accelerator programme 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact The ICURe Innovation-to-Commercialisation programme, piloted by the SETsquared Partnership and funded by InnovateUK and HEFCE, offers university researchers with commercially-promising ideas up to £50k to 'get out of the lab' and validate their ideas in the marketplace.

"I thought I knew my target market for my technology. But this programme is helping our team gain real feedback from potential customers and is dramatically changing the way we view our approach to research commercialisation." - SETsquared ICURe Pilot Programme Participant

ICURe is a collaboration of the SETsquared Partnership, the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), and Innovate UK (formerly the Technology Strategy Board), designed to move ideas and innovation out of universities and into the marketplace, where they will have the greatest impact.

In 2016-17, the ICURe pilot (phase 2) focusses on commercially-promising research projects undertaken at SETsquared and invited universities. ICURe will fund teams to determine whether there is a market for products or services that utilise their research, and then, where there is evidence of market demand, licence or spin-out the research into a company.

Guidance for Applicants

ICURe will fund proposals to prove market demand for research with funding of up to £35k for the 3 month Market Validation stage, with an additional up to £15k available post initial 3 months, where applicable. Applications for the funding should be made by a team of 3 consisting of:

Junior Researcher (ECR)

Senior Researcher (Principal Investigator)

Business Adviser.

ICURe will support three months of full-time, intense market assessment where Junior Researchers take on the role of the Entrepreneurial Lead, engaging with prospective customers, partners and competitors, taking steps to validate the commercial potential of their research.

At the end of the 3 months, participating teams will present their opportunity to an options panel that will offer the team expert guidance on recommended development pathways. The options proposed can include carrying out further research, exploring licensing opportunities, seeking private funding for spin-out or, for those projects that have demonstrated strong market potential by the end of the market validation, the panel may recommend a commercial oppoirtunity exists. If this is the case, commercialisation staff from the universities, ICURe programme team members and university incubators, will work with each team so that they can be fast-tracked into creating a start-up company.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.setsquared.co.uk/research-commercialisation/applications-cohort-8-are-open
 
Description Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact TO BE COMPLETED
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.ktn-uk.co.uk/articles/ktn-to-run-series-of-industrial-strategy-challenge-fund-workshops
 
Description Innovation in Synthetic Biology 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact TO BE COMPLETE - RIK AND SC ATTENDED - AT UCL
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Leadership Excellence Accelerator Programme (LEAP) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Each year about twenty Fellows - emerging leaders working in diverse areas of biotechnology - are selected to participate.

LEAP envisions catalysing a next generation of leaders in synthetic biology by providing the environment to learn skills for engaging a broad range of stakeholders in the development of the field with a strong ethical foundation for the future.
LEAP does this by:
Investing in the individuals who will ultimately shape and govern this diverse, growing and globally distributed technology.
Providing them with new tools and networks essential to achieving their visions for promoting innovation responsibly in practice.
Acting as a sustaining nexus of resources and support as leaders assume their roles.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014,2015,2016,2017
URL http://www.synbicite.com/knowledge/leap/
 
Description Lean Launchpad 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact The Lean Launchpad for Synthetic Biology course is a 10-week long programme for those looking to commercialise their research. The programme is an ideal pre-accelerator environment for helping students, academic and industrial researchers, and pre-seed companies identify their customers, interview them to get insights about the opportunity, and help them build the right product for these customers.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014,2015,2016
URL http://www.synbicite.com/knowledge/lean-launchpad/
 
Description Lean Launchpad Educators Programme 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact The Lean LaunchPad entrepreneurship education curriculum provides an effective integrated approach that adapts these critical processes into an exciting learning journey for students and faculty alike, while helping extend the classroom into the business community and entrepreneurship ecosystem. Adopted by the National Science Foundation in the United States, and hundreds of universities world-wide, the curriculum has emerged as the new standard of excellence in experiential entrepreneurship education.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.synbicite.com/knowledge/lean-launchpad-educators-programme/
 
Description Life Tech DNA Synthetic Training day 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact This workshop was run by SynbiCITE and helped industry adopt new technology
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Nature Knows Best 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact As part of our commitment to communicate the benefits of Synthetic Biology to both industry and the wider public, SynbiCITE has produced the documentary 'Nature Knows Best' in partnership with Business Reporter magazine.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015,2016
URL http://www.synbicite.com/news-events/SynbiCITE-videos/nature-knows-best/
 
Description OBN Senior Executive Breakfast 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact SynbiCITE sponsored an OBN Senior Executive breakfast. These breakfasts are a unique peer-to-peer networking platform for life sciences senior execs with all discussions held under Chatham House Rules which ensures full, frank and useful disclosure.
Discussions at this edition will address the topic of: 'How to Navigate the US Investment Landscape' and will include the types of investment available in the US and the pros, cons and regulatory considerations of each type.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Parliamentary Links Day 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact TO BE COMPLETED - SC ATTENDED
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Programme Expert Group member - Chemical and Biological Metrology and Advanced Manufacturing Metrology 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Determination of international projects relating to new metrology and development of standards for chemical and biological industries and advance manufacturing industry.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015,2016,2017
URL http://www.tuvnel.com/national_measurement_institutes
 
Description Singapore Trade and Investment Missions organised in conjunction with NUS and British High Commission 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact The basic objectives of the meeting were to provide an overview of the field of synthetic biology and how it is developing, particularly from the point of view of industrialisation and commercialization. A purpose of the meeting was to stimulate these areas by providing a forum for a discussion about industrialisation, commercialisation and investment in the field, with particular emphasis on collaborative industrial projects and investment. Those attending the meeting comprised industrialists, investors and people working on the science and engineering of industrial translation.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016,2017
 
Description Sky News at the SynbiCITE Foundry 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Sky News' report on the opening of the SynbiCITE Foundry for synthetic biology, 6th April 2016. Resulting in an increase in information requests.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.synbicite.com/news-events/SynbiCITE-videos/sky-news-synbicite-foundry/
 
Description Synthetic Biology Conference/Trade Show 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Business orientated workshop resulted in increased engagement between business and academia
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description UK US Synthetic Biology Congress 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Standards development in synthetic biology in US and UK
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Workshop to establish UK East African collaborations in practical synthetic biology - Nairobi 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact To establish UK East African collaborations in practical synthetic biology
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description iGEM competition and jamboree (UK & US) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact The iGEM Competition is the premiere student team competition in Synthetic Biology..

For over 10 years, iGEM has been encouraging students to work together to solve real-world challenges by building genetically engineered biological systems with standard, interchangeable parts. Student teams design, build and test their projects over the summer and gather to present their work and compete at the annual Jamboree.

Participation in the iGEM competition empowers teams to manage their own projects, advocate for their research and secure funding. Teams are also challenged to actively consider and address the safety, security and environmental implications of their work.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014,2016
URL http://2016.igem.org/Main_Page