Such cells are key to driving forward the UK’s knowledge-based bioeconomy (KBBE) through a combination of basic and strategic research aimed at improving cellular productivity and the synthesis of fine chemicals and biotherapeutics.
The research, led by Professor Martin Warren and his team at the University’s School of Biosciences, is one of five projects to be recognised by the BBSRC (Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council) as part of its Strategic Longer and Larger Grants (sLoLaS) scheme.
Professor Warren’s five-year research programme will engineer new ways of reorganising the internal metabolic machinery of cells.
The team hopes to build ‘micro-factories’ inside cells that will be able to produce useful and valuable molecules, such as pharmaceuticals, without intoxicating the cells. The overall aim of the project is to increase bacterial metabolic efficiency through the ergonomic design of specific intracellular compartments. This involves the use of cutting-edge technology in synthetic biology to tackle the redesign of the bacterial cytoplasm to accommodate the inclusion of bespoke self-contained mini-bioreactors.
This research will provide an important edge for UK biotechnology companies, existing and new, through the provision of greater productivity and new molecules, peptides and proteins for a number of purposes, including the development of fine chemical and protein-based drugs.
Professor Warren, who is receiving the largest grant (£3.484 million) among the five university beneficiaries, said that support for his research was ‘exciting’ and would help keep the University of Kent at the forefront of synthetic biology, resulting in strong interaction with industry.
Other beneficiaries of the total BBSRC £15.8 million funding include the universities of Oxford (£3.041 million), Manchester (£2.990 million) and Glasgow (£2.922 million). The BBSRC awards the grants to give ‘world-leading teams the time and resources to address major challenges’.