Synthetic Biology: An introduction
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Synthetic Biology is a new and growing discipline that brings together basic scientists and engineers to create biologically inspired systems that perform new functions. In July 2012 a panel of independent experts presented a Synthetic Biology Roadmap and Roadmap Landscape to UK government showing how synthetic biology could become a driving force of the national economy.
The Synthetic Components Network aims to approach Synthetic Biology in a novel and unique way by taking a bottom-up approach to synthetic biomolecluar systems. This will be built upon the principles of biological self assembly and engineering design.
The principal, broader aims of the Synthetic Components Network are:
- to establish a forum for the discussion & development of the relevant contemporary issues;
- to provide a focus for a relatively unexplored aspect of synthetic biology, namely the bottom-up approach;
- to engage a multi-disciplinary community and improve communications between biologists, chemists, computer scientists, engineers and physicists in order to tackle current and new issues in synthetic biology;
- to reach out to and help develop a wider community of potential synthetic biologists in the UK;
- to train a new cohort of early career scientists in a multi-disciplinary way, and, so, seed synthetic biology;
- to consider public understanding and ethical issues, and to engage the wider academic community and the public in the deliberation of these;
- to develop collaboratively a core framework of ethical issues to inform future research;
- to translate the advances in knowledge into benefit for society by collaboration with organisations able to deliver products and services based upon this knowledge.
By the end of the three-year tenure of the Network we aim to have achieved and established the following:
- improved communications between life & physical scientists, engineers, ethicists and members of the public;
- a Network of UK academics actively engaged in multidisciplinary work in synthetic biology;
- broader participation in the area beyond the initial Network core group;
- 12 – 24 academic exchanges between laboratories of the Network;
- better understanding of fundamental aspects of biomolecular self-assembly and organisation, and their application in synthetic biology;
- considerable progress towards developing the concepts for and a route towards the grand challenge;
- related to all of the above, a sound footing for responsive-mode RC grant applications;
- a number of successful RC grant applications;
- a website that is a useful resource both to Network members and the broader community;
- a recognised annual conference in field, with support/sponsorship from learned societies and industry;
- firm and active collaborative links with interested industrial partners, e.g. Unilever.
Research Council Funded Networks in Synthetic Biology