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AMBS partners with Zymergen at leading US science conference

13 Feb 2020

Alliance Manchester Business School (AMBS) is co-organising a session at the prestigious 2020 American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) meeting in Seattle this week

The AAAS is one of the world’s premiere international annual science gatherings, and the AMBS-led session is entitled ‘The Biological Engineering Revolution: Strategies for Sustainable Scale-up’.

The backdrop to the session is how new combinations of biology, information technology, and engineering can potentially help reduce reliance on fossil fuels and deliver more sustainable products and materials.

The session will share leading-edge industry, academic and laboratory perspectives on the opportunities and challenges presented by biological engineering, and speakers will discuss the growing roles of machine learning and automation in accelerating the design of new biomolecules for industry.

Co-organiser of the session Philip Shapira, Professor of Innovation Management and Policy at AMBS and lead for responsible innovation with the Manchester Synthetic Biology Research Centre for Fine and Specialty Chemicals, said: “Engineering biology is rapidly expanding with many new applications and products in or about to enter the market, including in food, industrial biotechnology, and consumer sectors.

“If scaled up, these developments would have major impacts on what we consume, how we produce, and whether we can reduce our global and local environmental impacts. Yet, there are concerns and challenges related to exactly how sustainable engineering biology is, what its societal implications are, and how responsible governance should proceed.”

Zymergen uses biology as a source of new chemical building blocks, enabling the development of novel products and materials that are not linked to traditional petroleum-based manufacturing. They create molecules for a wide array of industries - from consumer electronics to consumer care and pharmaceuticals.

Carrie Cizauskas, Manager of Publishing and Academic Relations at Zymergen - and also a co-author of the paper with Zymergen’s Donovan S. Layton - said: “The idea behind our business is to make whatever is possible in biology, using the power of biology to find new gene combinations to make new molecules. A few years ago, we began talking to Professor Shapira and were very interested in his work in terms of all aspects of sustainability, particularly in the biotech sector. It led us to collaborate on the paper, which has given us an excellent insight into the challenges that we face as just one private company operating in a field in which the whole world has much to do to improve sustainability.”

Professor Shapira added: “Our collaboration with Zymergen has resulted in a pioneering paper which is among the first to develop an approach to test the sustainability claims of synthetic biology. The paper and the AAAS session represent important outcomes from the interdisciplinary and international cooperation between The University of Manchester and Zymergen.”

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