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Synthetic biology – construction of organisms for new products and processes


Specific challenge: Enabling the construction and redesign of biological systems which display novel functions, including functions that are not known in nature, synthetic biology has the potential to transform a range of economic sectors. Applications include, among others, the manufacture of drugs, vaccines and diagnostic agents, the production of fine or bulk chemicals or the detection of pollutants and their breakdown or removal from the environment. While the prospects of combining engineering and biology are enormous, harnessing this potential requires further development of synthetic biology techniques while embedding the notion of responsible innovation upfront in its development.

Scope: Proposals should be industry and application driven, aiming on innovative approaches for different industrially relevant products. RTD challenges relate to the artificial design and/or simplification of the genomes and their use for the predictable engineering of biotechnological applications; the design of robust and sustainable biomolecular circuits and pathways as well as the need to develop standards and creation of orthogonal biological systems. Risk assessment, ethical, societal and intellectual property aspects should be integral part of any project. Proposals should liaise with other on-going FP7 and international activities on responsible governance of the science and society relationship related to synthetic biology. Activities will span between Technology Readiness Levels 3 and 5.

For this topic, proposals should include an outline of the initial exploitation and business plans, which will be developed further in the proposal project.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU between EUR 6 and 10 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

Expected impact:

         Scientific breakthroughs spurring innovation across sectors such as healthcare, energy, materials, chemicals, environmental technologies and agriculture.

         Technological validation of a number of synthetic biology derived products currently approaching proof-of-concept phase.

         Reinforced cooperation with academia will allow European industry including SMEs to capitalise on the European knowhow of synthetic biology and keep the prospects for European synthetic biology at the front of global competition.

         Contribution to the educated societal debate on synthetic biology by addressing ethical, safety, and intellectual property aspects.

Type of action: Research & Innovation Actions