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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/N025504/1
Title: Towards a Bio-based Manufacturing Platform for High Strength Aramid (Aromatic Polyamide) Synthetic Fibres Using Synthetic Biology
Principal Investigator: Scrutton, Professor NS
Other Investigators:
Hay, Dr S Faulon, Professor J Yeates, Professor SG
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Chemistry
Organisation: University of Manchester, The
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 31 May 2016 Ends: 30 May 2019 Value (£): 400,872
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Biomaterials Materials Processing
Synthetic biology
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Aerospace, Defence and Marine
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
11 Feb 2016 EPSRC DSTL Synthetic Biology for Protective Materials Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
There is a pressing need to unite and extend capabilities to take biomaterials synthesis to a new level, by developing strategies that enable rapid assembly of biological polymers and their subsequent (targeted) chemical elaboration to generate a diverse range of bio-derived materials. The game changer is the ability to re-write DNA to encode modules / polymers of interest and/or to design assembly production lines that enable rapid exploration of combinatorial monomer/polymer space with massive expansion in biomaterials diversity.

Creation of microscopic living foundries to produce and secrete materials (and their building blocks) with properties that can be genetically encoded is embedded in the new science of synthetic biology. Automation is critical to explore and facilitate the modular construction and combinatorial assembly of synthetic DNA. Re-writing DNA draws inspiration from refactoring, a process used to improve computer software. Synthetic biologists use refactoring to re-build natural systems, from the ground up, to provide engineered surrogates that are easier to understand. Better understanding facilitates predictable engineering, a key objective in the emerging field of synthetic biomaterials which is founded on the underlying principles of the new biology termed synthetic biology.

Synthetic biology can drive next generation synthetic biomaterials discovery, production and manufacture, and there is a pressing need to do so. The new biology harnesses synthetic and systems biology, and leverages engineering expertise and the integration of biotechnology, evolutionary biology, chemical engineering, molecular biology and genetic engineering. The step-change here is rapid development of bio-based production methods for scale-up / scale-out using a variety of production hosts (e.g. mammalian and fermentation approaches; natural hosts) that enable rapid isolation and chemical / biological elaboration of new materials. Because of the combinatorial approach there is a need for automated high throughput assembly of these production pipelines, and the the possible outcomes are almost limitless.

In this proposal we embrace these new technologies to give access to the microscopic living factories that are capable of synthesizing the building blocks for established and new aramid-based polymers that have widespread civilian and military applications. We aim to develop a scaled versatile production platform, which accommodates rapid ultra high throughput screening of polymer building blocks prior to more intensive downstream recovery of selected building blocks from expression hosts. The emerging science and technology will facilitate sustainable manufacture of established and new aramid polymers that will translate also to similar production platforms for other established or novel biologically derived materials. Our approach should also lead to the discovery of new aramid polymer properties that will create opportunities for their use in existing and new military or civilian applications.

Key Findings
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Organisation Website: http://www.man.ac.uk