‘We are already seeing how this new sector can benefit our economy with the UK founding more biotech companies than anywhere else in Europe.’
The UK Biosecurity Leadership Council has held its first meeting. Established by the UK government, the Council is focused on supporting responsible innovation in engineering biology, enhancing the UK’s global leadership in this area.
The Council includes representatives from academia and industry and includes; Kings College London, University of Cambridge, GSK, AstraZeneca, Oxford Nanopore, and Deepmind. Initial work by the Council will look at how the responsible development of DNA-based technology should be governed. The work will help government ministers understand how tools such as AI and new techniques for engineering DNA are being used, the potential risks they pose, and how these can be mitigated in a practical and proportional way. The Council comes out of the UK government’s Biological Security Strategy, published in June 2023, which aims to protect the UK from significant biological risks. Supporting the potential for the UK’s engineering biology sector, a government consultation on the topic is taking submissions until the end of September.
Chairing the first meeting of the Council, George Freeman, Minister of State for Science, Innovation and Technology commented: ‘We are already seeing how this new sector can benefit our economy with the UK founding more biotech companies than anywhere else in Europe […] Now is the time for us to set the pace globally on how this new sector will be governed, empowering responsible innovation in the UK and worldwide.’
Last year the UK government, through funding bodies, provided £20.6 million to bolster interdisciplinary research and drive the UK’s ambition to sustain a world leading capability in engineering biology. Engineering biology is considered to have a huge potential for tackling several global challenges including climate change and feeding a growing population. Last year also saw SCI host the Engineering Biology: Applications for Chemistry-using Business event where some of the chemical sector’s leading companies shared ways that engineering biological systems is allowing them to pivot and navigate a new sustainable landscape.