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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/Y014073/1
Title: EEBio: Efficient Engineering and Control of Predictable and Reliable Biosystems
Principal Investigator: Papachristodoulou, Professor A
Other Investigators:
Marucci, Dr L Ouldridge, Dr T E T Ceroni, Dr F
Kaye, Professor J Huang, Professor W Di Bernardo, Professor M
Gorochowski, Dr TE Ledesma Amaro, Dr R Steel, Professor H
Stan, Professor GV Poole, Professor PS
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
AstraZeneca Biosyntia Aps California Institute of Technology
Croda (Group) Doulix ETH Zurich
Evonetix Ltd Harvard University Hub for Biotech in the Built Environment
Integrated DNA Technologies Istanbul Technical University LabMaker GmbH
Legume Technology Ltd Massachusetts Institute of Technology Moolec Science Ltd
Nanovery Ltd National University of Singapore Novozymes A/S
Nuclera Nucleics Ltd. Oracle Corporation Oxford Nanopore Technologies
Shell Sound Agriculture Source BioScience UK Limited
Syngulon University of Colorado at Boulder
Department: Engineering Science
Organisation: University of Oxford
Scheme: Programme Grants
Starts: 01 March 2024 Ends: 28 February 2030 Value (£): 8,941,241
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Control Engineering Synthetic biology
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
No relevance to Underpinning Sectors
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
19 Jul 2023 Engineering Programme Grant Interview Panel 20 July 2023 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Research at the intersection of biology and engineering has expanded our understanding of living systems and the many unique and valuable capabilities they possess. Scientists and engineers have now begun to harness this knowledge in new ways to address some of humanity's most pressing challenges. For example, using engineered biosystems we can create innovative healthcare solutions, enable more sustainable forms of agriculture, and support clean manufacturing methods. The emerging field of Engineering Biology aims to harness biology to build technologies for a healthy, sustainable, and equitable future. However, to date the lack of a rigorous biological engineering process has resulted in biosystems that are fragile, unpredictable, and difficult to scale when applied in real-world settings.

Early pioneers in fields ranging from Aerospace to Information Technologies faced similar challenges when attempting to create robust and reliable systems. Such difficulties were oftentimes overcome using methods from systems and control engineering, which enabled rigorous approaches to the design, optimisation, and realisation of engineered systems, ultimately leading to dramatic economic growth and the creation of entirely new industries. To achieve an equivalent step-change in the engineering of reliable and robust biological systems, our programme will develop similar control and Artificial Intelligence systems in biotechnology - which we term feedback biocontrollers. These biocontrollers will be designed to operate within cells, between cells, and even to interact with non-biological entities (such as computers), thereby allowing researchers and innovators to efficiently and safely harness engineered biology in its many real-world applications.

The robust engineering of biological control systems will be underpinned by the development of four "Engineering Pillars". These cover Theory (mathematical/AI approaches based on systems and control theory to model, design, analyse, and optimise biosystems), Software (computational tools able to translate this theory into conceptual designs), Wetware (experimental methods and biological parts to make designs a biological reality), and Hardware (to comprehensively test, scale-up, and deploy engineered biosystems). Each Pillar feeds directly into an integrated "Design-Build-Test-Learn" cycle rooted in systems and control engineering methods, which will accelerate academic and industrial development of new biotechnologies. Technologies developed in each Engineering Pillar will be integrated to address outstanding problems in three "Grand Challenge'' application domains: Biomedicine, Agriculture, and the Environment. Our team will work with industrial partners to generate world-leading solutions for each of these areas, demonstrating how biocontrollers can revolutionise scale-up and deployment of reliable engineered biotechnologies.

The EEBio programme represents a timely investment in the new field of Engineering Biology which is set to play a defining role in the future of our society and the rapidly growing Bioeconomy. Our team of world-leading experts and up-and-coming early career researchers will create tools and technologies that are key to the effective engineering of biological systems - as observed in other, mature engineering fields - but which are not yet realised for Engineering Biology. EEBio brings together recent momentum across our team for rapid impact, while also supporting development of seminal ideas; in the near-term this will help address Grand Challenges we face today, while in the long-term it will provide the foundation for many bio-based solutions that will improve human life, agriculture, and the environment. Our work will accelerate responsible industrial exploitation, open up the field to other research communities (in the life, medical and social sciences), and support public confidence in the safety and reliability of Engineering Biology.
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Organisation Website: http://www.ox.ac.uk