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UK Factory to Manufacture DNA
   2016-04-08 07:00:21    CRIENGLISH.com      Web Editor: Li Bin

Double helix structure of DNA. [Photo: chinanews.com]

A new factory has just opened in the United Kingdom. Nothing special about that, you might think.

But instead of making steel or assembling cars, the new unit has a workforce of automated robots manufacturing the building blocks of life.

The British government sees this synthetic biology industry as one of several technologies in which the UK can excel in the future.

CRI's Li Jianhua has the story.

 

The 2-million-pound factory, which is called the Foundry, has recently opened at Imperial College London.

This special institution plans to industrialise the process of preparing DNA for use in synthetic biology.

The DNA will, in turn, be turned into biological "devices" - mini production centres for antibiotics, vaccines and even for making fuel.

Professor Paul Freemont, who leads the new DNA hub, says this technology will be beneficial to the environment.

"This is the future about how we're going to build and manufacture, you know really complex molecules like drugs, or pharmaceuticals, or even commodity chemicals, you know the idea of removing our reliance on petrochemicals, on all synthetic chemistry and moving to biology which is a much more greener, environmentally friendly space to be in."

Synthetic biology has been identified by the UK Government as one of the eight "great technologies" that they hope the country can excel in.

The technology has certainly witnessed boom times since the de-coding of the human genome back in 2000.

And due to the emergence of a new technique for gene editing - clustered regularly-interspaced short palindromic repeats - more simply known as CRISPR, synthetic technology has been growing even faster.

For instance, Chloe Gui, the co-founder and CEO of Aranex, is using CRISPR to make non-allergenic peanuts.

"We're knocking out the genes that create the proteins responsible for allergic reactions. The great thing about CRISPR is that it's much easier than technologies used in the past. So it's cheaper, it's faster, it's very, very easy, all you need to do is have this address that tells you which gene you want to target, you design that part and it's fairly, very easy."

The UK is now hoping new factories like this, will enable the country to replace old fuels and commodities with a range of new environmentally friendly products.

For CRI, this is Li Jianhua.

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