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Synthetic biology

Synthetic biology uses engineering principles to design, build and test biological systems in order to generate new and useful attributes. The University of Edinburgh leads innovative research to ensure that synthetic biology delivers transformative solutions for affordable and effective healthcare, food security, the production of novel materials and greener sources of energy.

The University is a leader in synthetic and systems biology, and has actively brought together world-class capabilities in biology, chemistry, engineering, medicine, informatics, mathematics, physics and social sciences to address the key challenges in this exciting area of technology. Synthetic biology will continue to be a core area of investment and growth for the future.

We are:

  • creating novel tools and technologies to enable synthetic biology applications
  • offering consultancy and access to state-of-the-art facilities and services
  • implementing gold standards in responsible research and innovation in synthetic biology
  • collaborating with industry to implement the transformative power of synthetic biology
  • enhancing the growth of existing companies and generating new business opportunities
  • delivering advanced cross-disciplinary training in relevant specialities.


Key areas of expertise

Staff Bootcamp

Design and build

The Edinburgh Genome Foundry, a BBSRC- funded national facility that carries out the design and assembly of DNA up to chromosome size.

  • Bespoke software for CAD and CAM
  • Expertise in automation techniques
  • A test bed for prototyping robotic systems


A wide variety of technology platforms are available to explore the phenotype of synthetically modified cells:

  • Novel mass spectrometry techniques
  • Next-generation and long-read gene sequencing
  • OperaTMconfocal high-content screening imaging
  • LEAPTMautomated live-cell analysis and processing
  • Microfluidics platforms
  • Novel microscopy methods including single-cell analysis


We can offer extensive expertise in modelling and in the development of standards.

Facilities at the University of Edinburgh

The University of Edinburgh is host to an extensive range of facilities, equipment and expertise which can be accessed by companies and organisations for in-house projects. Find out how to access the facilities, equipment and expertise at the University, or to discuss a particular project in greater depth.

Explore all facilities in the College of Science and Engineering


Click to explore facilities available at the University of Edinburgh for synthetic biology

Edinburgh Genome Foundry

A fully automated platform to design and assemble DNA up to chromosome length.

Phenotyping: Kinetic Parameter Facility

Specialises in contract work and consultancy for synthetic and systems biology research.

Edinburgh Genomics

High-throughput gene sequencing technologies supported by bioinformatics expertise.

Plant Facilities

Plant tissue culture, containment and controlled growth environments with extensive greenhouses for plant research.

Innogen Institute

Research and consultancy around the ethical, legal and social implications of emerging technologies with a particular interest in synthetic biology.

Read about our current projects and success stories 


GSK PLC, a global pharmaceutical company, is collaborating with the University of Edinburgh to create a new sustainable manufacturing process by developing novel routes for the biological production of a key antibiotic related molecule. This will produce cleaner and greener routes to antibiotics production for GSK. Academic expertise: Professors Gary Loake and Dominic Campopiano

Synpromics Ltd.

Synpromics Ltd, a pioneering synthetic biology company, together with researchers from Edinburgh are developing screening technologies using automation and next generation sequencing. This enables Synpromics to rapidly identify optimal synthetic promoters for their customers. Academic expertise: Dr Karim Gharbi

Ingenza Ltd.

Ingenza Ltd. a leading industrial biotechnology company is working with the University of Edinburgh to develop a CRISPR-Cas9 genome modification system in industrial yeast strains. This will generate yeast lines with enhanced value for a range of industrial applications. Academic expertise: Professor Susan Rosser

Contact us to find out how we can help