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Department of Plant Sciences

From foundry to factory

Building synthetic plants

Earlier this year, the University of Cambridge and the John Innes Centre in Norwich received £12 million in funding for a new UK synthetic biology centre - OpenPlant - to focus on the development of open technologies in plant synthetic biology and their application in engineering new crop traits. The effort is being led by Professor Sir David Baulcombe and Professor Jim Haseloff in Cambridge and by Professors Dale Sanders and Anne Osbourn in Norwich. It's one of three new UK centres for synthetic biology that, over the next five years, will receive more than £40 million in funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. The project will fast-forward the design of new plant traits. It takes inspiration from engineering and the software industry, and is being underpinned in Cambridge. OpenPlant is also part of a wider move towards 'sharing' in Cambridge that now includes scientific tools of the trade. More details can be found in issue 24 of Research Horizons (pages 6-7) from the University of Cambridge (read online).