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Engineering biology inquiry launched

2 April 2024

The House of Lords Science and Technology Committee is launching an inquiry into engineering biology. 

Background

The Government defines engineering biology as the design, scaling and commercialisation of biology-derived products and services that can transform sectors or produce existing products more sustainably. It can use the tools of synthetic biology, including but not limited to gene editing, and involves its application and commercialisation across sectors. These engineered biological systems can be used to manipulate information, assemble materials, process chemicals, produce energy, provide food, and help maintain or enhance human health and the environment.

Engineering Biology has also been defined by the Council on Science and Technology as the application of rigorous engineering principles to biology, enabling the construction of new or redesigned biological systems, such as cells or proteins, with applications across numerous sectors, including food, materials, and health.

In the Science and Technology Framework, published in February 2023, Engineering Biology was identified as one of the “five critical technologies” that the UK should focus on. In December 2023, the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) published its National Vision for Engineering Biology, setting out its approach to engineering biology policy and committing to invest £2 billion over the next 10 years. In March 2024, DSIT and UKRI announced funding for two new Doctoral Training Centres in the field of Engineering Biology.


The Committee will explore:

  • which technologies fall under the umbrella of engineering biology, and what its potential is, particularly in delivering UK economic growth through commercialisation and for improvements to public services;
  • what the key applications for engineering biology might be, how realistic some of the claims made are, which developments are already underway, and which areas of engineering biology the UK excels at and which it is well placed to exploit;
  • what more needs to happen to ensure that the science developed in the UK benefits public services and the UK economy; and
  • the ethical, regulatory and safety implications of the rapid developments in engineering biology.

A full list of questions can be found in the Call for Evidence (see link above).

Timeline

The Committee invites written contributions to its inquiry by 11.59 pm on Tuesday 7 May 2024.

 

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