Department awarded one of the Great British Technologies Fellowship Grants

Leading academics from 10 UK universities have been awarded a total of £13 million in Fellowship grants to maintain the UK’s research leadership in three areas identified as Great British Technologies; Advanced Materials, Robotic and Autonomous Systems, and Synthetic Biology. Congratulations to Professor Antonis Papachristodoulou, for being awarded an Engineering Fellowship for Growth on “Designing Feedback Control in Biology for Robustness and Scalability”.

Universities and Science Minister, David Willetts said: “These Fellowships will keep the UK ahead in fields identified as part of the 8 Great Technologies with the potential to propel UK growth. We champion and support our leading academics in these areas to realise our ambition to make the UK the best place in the world to do and apply science”.

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Fellowship grant of £1,068,000 has been awarded to Professor Papachristodoulou who will build a research team and work in partnership with researchers at the California Institute of Technology, ETH Zurich, KAIST, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Microsoft Research Ltd to undertake research in “Synthetic Biology”.

Professor Antonis PapachristodoulouProfessor Papachristodoulou said: “Synthetic Biology is the "Engineering of Biology": it aspires to use the Engineering design cycle to produce bio-circuits that behave predictably and reliably, usually with specific applications in mind. Synthetic Biology has the potential to create new industries and technologies in several sectors, from agriculture to the environment, and from energy to healthcare. Some of these applications require Synthetic Biology designs to be scalable, so that small circuits can be composed to form larger systems. Currently, however, even small bio-circuits seldom function as expected because of the high level of uncertainty in the cellular environment, the way poorly-characterised parts are assembled together and the lack of a systematic framework for integrating parts to form systems. This is a major challenge that needs to be overcome in order for the potential of Synthetic Biology to be fulfilled and for industry and society to reap the rewards”.

He added: “This Fellowship application will use a systems and control engineering approach, based on modelling, abstraction, standardization and the development of new bio-feedback modules to target specific uncertainties in the cell”.

Earlier this year, Professor Antonis Papachristodoulou received major Government funding for an EPSRC & Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) Centre for Doctoral Training in Synthetic Biology: