£3 million grant for cutting edge biotechnology


Scientists at The University of Manchester have been awarded nearly £3 million to develop new sustainable ways of manufacturing the chemicals used in thousands of our everyday products.

Professor Nigel Scrutton and his team at the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology are one of five beneficiaries of the BBSRC’s Strategic Longer and Larger Grants (sLoLaS) scheme which funds high-value long-term research projects.

Fossil fuels currently provide the raw material for the manufacture of many everyday products that we take for granted including pharmaceuticals, food and drink, plastics and personal care. The combined effect of fossil carbon depletion and climate change are forcing us to replace fossil fuels with cleaner more sustainable forms of energy.

Professor Scrutton’s five year research programme is at the heart of this agenda. His team will design bespoke biological parts and assemble them in novel ways to create a bio-based production pipeline within a synthetic, engineered microbial biofactory. By adopting a production pipeline that embraces the ‘design-build-test-deploy’ life-cycle they will turn knowledge assets into innovative chemicals production solutions to support industrial and academic drug discovery programmes.  

Professor Scrutton says the £3 million grant is a substantial boost for Manchester: “Our vision is to harness the power of Synthetic Biology to propel chemicals and natural products production towards ’green’ and sustainable manufacturing processes. More broadly, the programme will provide the general tools, technology platforms and SynBio 'know-how' that will impact widely in the sustainable manufacture of chemicals and natural products for development by the industrial sector.”

In total £15.8 million is being handed to five research teams as part of the sLola scheme which aims to provide world-leading teams long-term funding and resources to address major challenges. The projects were chosen based on their scientific excellence; because they required long timescales, extensive resources and/or multidisciplinary approaches and because they involve internationally leading research teams.

Greg Clark, Minister for Universities, Science and Cities, said: “This funding will support world-leading research teams in Sheffield, Kent, Manchester, Glasgow and Oxford to address research gaps in bioscience for the benefit of the UK.

“From harnessing the sun’s power for better biofuel production to investigating how to reduce costs for British sheep farmers, these research projects supported by almost £16m from government will help to find long-term solutions to some of our biggest challenges in areas like health, energy and agriculture.” 

Professor Jackie Hunter, BBSRC Chief Executive, said: “BBSRC’s sLoLaS scheme gives world-leading scientists based in the UK long-term funding to work on critical research challenges. In this round those challenges include producing clean energy, new ways to produce medicines and other valuable chemicals, and protecting livestock from disease.  

“Not only will these funded projects help the UK and the world to address these challenges, but it will build vital research capacity here in the UK and provide opportunities for economic and social benefits.”

Notes for editors

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The full list of grants:

Principal Investigator Organisation Title Value

Professor Neil Hunter University of Sheffield Engineering new capacities for solar energy utilisation in bacteria £3,349,791

Professor Martin Warren University of Kent Development of supramolecular assemblies for enhancing cellular productivity and the synthesis of fine chemicals and biotherapeutics £3,484,320

Professor Nigel Scrutton The University of Manchester Innovative Routes to Monoterpene Hydrocarbons and Their High Value Derivatives £2,990,390

Professor Eileen Devaney University of Glasgow The BUG consortium Building Upon the Genome: using H. contortus genomic resources to develop novel interventions to control endemic GI parasites £2,922,217

Professor Béla Novák University of Oxford Systems-level characterization of mammalian cell cycle transitions £3,040,813

Please contact:

Morwenna Grills
Media Relations Officer
Faculty of Life Sciences
The University of Manchester

Tel: +44 161 275 2111
Mob: +44 7920 087466
Email: Morwenna.Grills@manchester.ac.uk