A survey of synbio startups in the last 16 years shows that the UK ecosystem is growing rapidly and approaching critical mass, says SynbiCITE.

Dedicated to championing industrial uptake of synthetic biology, SynbiCITE is a knowledge center based at Imperial College London. Some of its initiatives have included opening a gene foundry last year to providing grants to companies like Desktop Genetics to develop CRISPR platforms. Now, it’s taking the pulse of the fledgling synbio industry in the UK.

SynbiCITE has surveyed startups working on the field from the last 16 years and found promising statistics. Not only has the number of companies grown steadily, doubling every five years, three-quarters of all the founded companies within that period are still active today. It seems like a really respectable number, considering the novelty of the field and some unique challenges of biology-based startups.

UK’s synbio ecosystem now counts with 146 companies, and SynbiCITE leaders are confident that it could soon be self-sustaining, with the same type of traction of synbio clusters in California and Boston, US. Stephen Chambers, CEO, believes it’s all there, from the necessary educational programs, a stable stream of talent, infrastructure to support product’s pipeline, investment and a critical mass of companies.

synbio startups UK synbicite imperial college

Location of synbio startups in Great Britain, according to the survey.

All that’s needed to achieve this bright future, then, is the right support. According to Richard Kitney, Co-Director, this would be to continue to meet the needs of investment with a mix of public and private funding.

The UK already has a very significant investment ecosystem in place for biotech, even if it’s being shaken up by Brexit, that have played a big role in making successful clusters of more traditional biotech, like Cambridge. Additionally, it seems to have embraced the potential of synthetic biology vocally, with the funding of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, dedicated to non-medical engineering of biology, pioneering biohackathons, and organization like Synbicite and  SynBioBeta.

Europe already has some successful names in the space of industrial synbio, such as Deinove and Evolva, which has even snatched contracts with the US Military, and many other promising companies. However, American synbio is still stealing most of the headlines, even in collaborations with European industry: Italian Novamont’s butanediol breakthrough uses bacteria engineering by California-based Genomatica, and Amyris worked on its famous antimalarial program with Sanofi. Maybe the UK can build an ecosystem on par with the success stories of the US clusters.


Images from terimakasih0/Pixabay and Synbicite.


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