£1 Million from BBSRC and EPSRC for Synthetic Yeast

David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science, announced nearly £1M funding for synthetic yeast at the Sixth International Meeting on Synthetic Biology (SB6.0) at Imperial College London on Thursday (July 11). David Willetts said: Sc2.0 project “is truly groundbreaking and pushes the boundaries of synthetic biology. Thanks to this investment, UK scientists will be at the centre of an international effort using yeast – which gives us everything from beer to biofuels – to provide new research techniques and unparalleled insights into genetics. This will impact important industrial sectors like life sciences and agriculture.” Funding for the yeast project is part of a £60M package for synthetic biology.

Dr.Tom Ellis, Lecturer in Synthetic Biology at Imperial College London, said: “We are excited to be welcoming our new international consortium partners to London to discuss Sc2.0. Having recently secured funding for the UK to be part of this ground-breaking project, we are looking forward to getting started and being part of the action. It”s a perfect fit for our work in synthetic biology here at Imperial, where we really view yeast as a tiny factory that can be tooled-up to produce new molecules. A synthetic genome will allow us to reprogram yeast and our goal is to use it to produce new antibiotics as resistance arises to existing ones.”

When completed, synthetic yeast will be the first time scientists have built the whole genome of a eukaryotic organism – those organisms, like animals and plants, which store DNA within a nucleus. Scientists can then design different strains of synthetic yeast that contain genes to make commercially valuable products such as chemicals, vaccines or biofuels.

Professor Boeke, the overall head of the project at Johns Hopkins Medical School in Baltimore, said: “Sc2.0, once completed, will provide unparalleled opportunities for asking profound questions about biology in new and interesting ways, such as: How much genome scrambling generates a new species? How many genes can we delete from the genome and still have a healthy yeast? And how can an organism adapt its gene networks to cope with the loss of an important gene? Moreover, genome scrambling may find many uses in biotechnology, for example in the development of yeast that can tolerate higher ethanol levels.”

Alongside BBSRC and EPSRC, major funders for the Sc2.0 consortium members in their respective countries include the US National Science Foundation (NSF), the US Department of Energy, China”s Ministry of Science and Technology (MoST) and the Tsinghua University Initiative Scientific Research Program.

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