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East Midlands Chamber News

New funding will aid Nottingham-China collaboration

Scientists from Nottingham and China are joining forces to look at ways of developing new fuels and chemicals that won’t affect food production.

Experts in synthetic biology at The University of Nottingham will collaborate with scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) Institutes in Shanghai and Beijing to design tools and strategies for producing bacteria which is able to make low carbon fuels and chemicals from industrial waste gas without consuming food or land resources.

The project is led by Professor Nigel Minton from the School of Molecular Medical Sciences at Nottingham, and Professor Weihong Jiang of the Key Laboratory of Synthetic Biology at the Shanghai Institute for Biological Sciences (SIBS). Nottingham will receive funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Research Council (BBSRC), while SIBS will receive matched funds from CAS.

Industrial partners Lanzatech and BaoSteel are also contributing a total of £6,000 to aid work on the design of these strategies and tools.

Synthetic biology is an emerging field where engineering principles are applied in biology to design, engineer and build new biological systems

Professor Nigel Minton said: “Carbon monoxide gas, or CO, is an abundant resource, and a waste product of steel manufacturing, oil refining and other industries. Unfortunately, CO released into the atmosphere eventually ends up as carbon dioxide (CO2), thereby contributing to greenhouse gas emissions.

“Fortunately, there are special types of bacteria that can ‘consume’ CO and convert it into chemicals and fuels. Our partnership will identify the most effective bacterial strains and then use synthetic biology to both improve and to extend the chemicals they can make.

“This project offers a real opportunity to provide more sustainable sources of chemicals and energy that do not interfere with the food supply chain and will contribute to reductions in fossil carbon emissions.”

This is one of five grants which have been awarded to institutions across the country through a Synthetic Biology China Partnering Award, which aims to improve the scientific links between the UK and China in the field of synthetic biology. Others to benefit from the funding are University College London, the University of Manchester, the University of Edinburgh and the University of Warwick.

The awards, co-funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Research Council (BBSRC), the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) will provide funding to BBSRC and EPSRC supported researchers to partner and develop long term fruitful relationships with Chinese scientists.

Professor Douglas Kell, Chief Executive of BBSRC, said: “Synthetic biology is an exciting new field with enormous potential to bring benefits to people around the world in all sorts of ways, for example producing better antibiotics or manufacturing low carbon fuels.

“Co-funded initiatives such as this scheme will see British and Chinese scientists learning from each other’s expertise and benefiting from the globalisation of excellent science.”

Professor David Delpy, Chief Executive of EPSRC, said: “EPSRC is pleased to be part of this joint international call which demonstrates the wide scope for synthetic biology to create impact in many academic fields. It has the potential to create new solutions to address pressing global challenges, such as the need for new fuels, better waste management and new medicines.”

To learn more about forging trading links with China, South America and India, visit www.m-itec.co.uk.