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Synthetic Biology

Biology – Technology – Business: Bridging the gap between biology and business

Synthetic biology is poised to be disruptive to many industries. The groundbreaking combination of engineering and biological science will have far-reaching effects on multiple markets – from diagnostic sensors and targeted therapeutics to car tyres and street lights.

The idea is simple – applying engineering principles and methods to biological systems to create innovative and valuable products and processes. But the execution is more challenging…

Synthetic biology harnesses the incredible capability of living systems to process, assemble and recycle matter efficiently and accurately at the molecular level. By controlling this capability, we can persuade biology to do specific tasks for us.

Humankind has learnt how to control biological systems at the molecular level through DNA modification. We are now at the point where we can start to engineer biology rather than research it. We can specify an end goal, design, build and test.

At Cambridge Consultants we’re embracing the opportunities created by synthetic biology – to enable our clients to move from biological principle through technology development to business value.

Market strategy

We bring a strong commercial focus to synthetic biology. We work with our clients to understand the business opportunities and applications for synthetic biology – and realistic routes to market. From market research to technical due diligence, IP landscaping to technology roadmapping, we find the value.

Tools and process design

We create novel tools, processes and platforms that accelerate the design-build-test cycle. This is critical to make engineered biology cost effective – but it is especially challenging given the scale of experimental design required to optimise a biological system. We understand the importance of a multidisciplinary approach to optimise this loop – the interplay of biology, chemistry, mechanics, electronics, software and maths.

We are working with two academic teams to specify and develop such tools, with a focus on rapid characterisation of biological circuits. We have also spun out an early-stage start-up company working on DNA synthesis.

Product design and optimisation

Making synthetic biology a commercial success relies on the launch of great products. These products have to take into account the full requirements for the product lifecycle – from development through manufacture to disposal.

We are collaborating with an academic team to develop novel sensors based on engineered biology. These will provide the core for a range of products – from low-cost disposable devices to high-performance lab-based instruments.

Regulation and standards

Synthetic biology is a new industry and the regulatory and standards landscape is evolving around it. We understand the importance of well-defined standards and clear regulatory frameworks to deliver safe, functional products quickly and cost effectively. We are engaging with BSI and others in the standards and measurement communities to understand what standards are required and how they can be developed, particularly in metrology, data exchange and vocabulary.

Community engagement

We are members of SynbiCITE – the UK's national centre for the commercialisation of synthetic biology – and SynBioBeta, the activity hub for the synthetic biology industry. We have relationships with academia, particularly the University of Cambridge, the University of Edinburgh and The University of Manchester SYNBIOCHEM – all leading centres for synthetic biology. We also sponsored – and provided technical expertise to – the University of Cambridge iGEM 2016 team.