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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/H019146/1
Title: Sandpit: Engineering genetically augmented polymers (GAPS)
Principal Investigator: Booth, Professor P
Other Investigators:
O'Reilly, Professor RK
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Biochemistry
Organisation: University of Bristol
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 January 2010 Ends: 30 October 2013 Value (£): 628,055
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Biomaterials Materials Synthesis & Growth
Synthetic biology
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Pharmaceuticals and Biotechnology
Related Grants:
Panel History:  
Summary on Grant Application Form
Nature constructs beautiful and complex living entities using a surprisingly small array of different building blocks. Whilst we know what the essential building blocks are, we have yet to understand the intricacy of how they are brought together and assembled in Nature. There is tremendous potential to tap into this knowledge. Not only will it enable us to mimic natural processes - such as solar energy conversion and hydrogen production - but we can also begin to take inspiration from Biology to design and construct new materials and devices with specific functions. This will transform areas from electronics to medicine to climate change. We propose to tap into Nature's coding information; the genetic information stored in an organism's DNA. The information is stored very precisely in DNA and is transferred and used very efficiently during growth and development to give healthy organisms with certain characteristics and abilities. We want to use this genetic information to programme the interaction of natural and chemical systems. This will give a great deal of control during the engineering of new materials and devices, as we can precisely combine the components. This type of precision and programming has been lacking from such endeavours thus far. Plastics provide a good example of this. Whilst we are very good at making plastics, we are not so good at making smart plastics, in which for example we can dial in bio-degradability. Our intention is to take the building blocks of plastics together with protein molecules, which are key functional components of natural systems. To each of these we will add short pieces of genetic information so that a plastic can specifically recognise and stick to another plastic, or protein. We will use segments of DNA that are perfect for this task. DNA in a gene is double stranded; one strand contains the genetic code and the second strand contains the anti-code and sticks very tightly and exactly to the first coding strand. We propose to attach a short section of coding strand to a plastic and the corresponding strand of anti-code to a protein, thus programming the plastic and protein to stick together. The variations possible in the coding strand mean we can encode many different plastics and proteins to talk to each other.This work will give us an entirely new way to design and build materials. We will be able to instruct specific biological modules to interact and cooperate in precise ways with materials like plastics. This will be very different from how our everyday technologies are currently built as we lack this programming ability. It will provide components and construction methods for the engineering and manufacture of drugs, materials and devices.
Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Date Materialised
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Organisation Website: http://www.bris.ac.uk