Organisation profile

Organisation profile

The Centre for Engineering Biology has evolved from SynthSys (the University of Edinburgh Centre for Synthetic and Systems Biology) and the UKRI-funded UK Centre for Mammalian Synthetic Biology. The centre consists of members from across the three University of Edinburgh Colleges, CSE, CMVM and CAHSS.

The Centre is a community of more than 50 research groups and 200 researchers spanning biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, engineering, informatics, medicine and social sciences. 

It is underpinned by specialist research facilities including Edinburgh Genome Foundry, the world’s largest automated DNA assembly platform, and EdinOmics, for mass spectrometry, metabolomics and proteomics analysis.

The Centre for Engineering Biology will take synthetic biology concepts and translate them into real world solutions. Researchers break down the genome into smaller parts to better understand how they contribute to how living systems work; they then either re-use or redesign these genetic parts to build new systems with a variety of novel and useful purposes.

Researchers can, for example, engineer bacteria with the ability to upcycle carbon or metal waste into high value chemicals,  or use gene editing tools to generate cells resistant to Lewy bodies and useful in the management of Parkinson’s disease.

Aligned with the UK Government’s National Engineering Biology Programme (NEBP) the centre will build on existing expertise and fundamental research, driving impact and strengthening the UK’s position as an international leader.

Growth and Opportunities

The Centre’s research is broad and deep, addressing a diversity of scientific questions with wide ranging impacts for society, industry, the economy and our planet.

Research will include the synthetic biology in which Edinburgh is already strong, but also engineering of biology for 'green', or sustainable, chemistry, which will lead to more environmentally friendly ways of producing food, fuel, alternative materials and chemicals, and the engineering of mammalian systems for a range of medical technologies, including cell therapies and tissue engineering. 


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Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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