Flagship DNA facility sets sights on advances in science

Published: 7-Jul-2016

The first fully automated DNA production facility in the UK is based at the Edinburgh Genome Foundry in Scotland

The Edinburgh Genome Foundry will design, build and test large sections of DNA – the building blocks of life – using large-scale robotic processes.

Researchers at the facility are seeking to create and modify long strands of DNA that can be used to equip cells or organisms with new or improved functions. Its products could lead to advances such as programming stem cells for use in personalised medicines, or developing bacteria that can detect disease in the gut.

Scientists at the Foundry, which is housed at the University of Edinburgh’s School of Biological Sciences, will design and manufacture genetic material on an unprecedented scale. They will be able to design and build large, complex pieces of DNA code quickly and at relatively low cost.

The facility will support an international project to synthesise the entire genome of yeast, a model organism for research into living systems. An international team of researchers, led by scientists from Edinburgh, has already created the first chromosome of synthetic yeast.

The Edinburgh Genome Foundry will ensure the UK leads the way in pioneering these new medicines

The Foundry is primarily funded by the Research Councils UK’s Synthetic Biology for Growth Programme.

Jo Johnson, the UK Government's Science Minister, said: 'The UK is home to the discovery of the DNA double helix, a ground-breaking moment in modern science. An even greater understanding of DNA, and the ability to construct and modify it will lead to untold scientific discoveries that could save millions of lives around the world.

'Through the investment by the Government, the Edinburgh Genome Foundry will ensure the UK leads the way in pioneering these new medicines.'

Professor Susan Rosser, Co-Director of the Foundry, and Chair in Synthetic Biology at the University of Edinburgh, said the Edinburgh Genome Foundry will allow the construction of DNA on a large scale and will support synthetic biology in the UK.

'This will help us both interrogate how cells and organisms operate and realise the many economically important applications of synthetic biology,' she said.

Professor Patrick Cai, Co-Director of the Foundry, added: 'The Edinburgh Genome Foundry, as the UK’s largest integrated national facility for automated DNA synthesis assembly, will play a key role in ushering in major developments in the field.'

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