Scientists get £4m to develop ‘designer bacteria’

As reported by Pharma Express, scientists at the University of Glasgow have received £4m from the UK Government to help them develop ‘designer bacteria’.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has distributed funds through the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council with the overall aim of making the UK a world leader in research and application of synthetic biology.

The cash boost will be invested to help scientists and researchers in the Institute of Molecular, System and Cell Biology to develop tools for the production of useful strains of micro-organisms. The Glasgow scientists will use a family of enzymes called recombinases which act as molecular ‘scissors and glue’ for DNA. These will allow the researchers to cut the strands at precisely defined positions and ‘paste’ a new sequence into the gap. The researchers will also use the technology to ‘teach’ cells to count and keep a record of the number they have counted up to in their DNA.

The £4m for the project, which is being led by Prof Stark and his colleagues Dr Sean Colloms and Dr Susan Rosser, will also fund researchers at Aberdeen, York and Nottingham Universities.

David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science, said, “Synthetic biology could provide solutions to the global challenges we face and offers significant growth opportunities in a range of important sectors from health to energy. However, the commercialisation of basic science is largely untapped. This investment will help to ensure that academics and industry can realise its full potential.”

 

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Glasgow scientists receive £4m to develop ‘designer bacteria’   Glasgow scientists receive £4m to develop ‘designer bacteria’   Glasgow scientists receive £4m to develop ‘designer bacteria’   Glasgow scientists receive £4m to develop ‘designer bacteria’

 

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Soil researchers discover a microbe of global agricultural significance

As reported by Scientist Live, microbiologists at the University of Aberdeen have shed new light on the understanding of how ammonia-based fertilisers are inactivated by microorganisms in soil.

Billions of pounds are spent annually on nitrogen fertilisers to support crop production to feed the world’s population. Ammonia-oxidising’ microbes rapidly convert ammonia to nitrate, which is washed out of the soil before it reaches crops for which it is intended. This leads to losses to farmers estimated at over $15 billion per year and nitrate-polluted drinking water.

Over the past hundred years, all strains cultivated have only grown in standard laboratory conditions at higher, neutral pH, and not in acidic conditions.

Research performed at the University of Aberdeen has identified a novel organism which performs the process of ammonia oxidation in acidic conditions, and has also demonstrated that this organism is abundant and globally distributed in acidic soils.

A large part of this work involved the analysis of soils from the Scottish Agricultural College’s Craibstone Estate outside Aberdeen, to recognise the importance of the site from which the organisms were obtained, and the university at which the microbe was first cultivated, the new organism has been named Nitrosotalea devanaterra, which means an ammonia-oxidising ‘rod’ from soil in Aberdeen, incorporating Devana, the Roman name for Aberdeen. It is part of the Domain of microbes known as Archaea.

The research team has now been awarded a £0.5 million, 3.5-year research grant by the Natural Environment Research Council to investigate the highly unusual physiology of Nitrosotalea devanaterra and to find out more about its potential role in the loss of ammonia-based fertilisers and nitrous oxide gas emissions from soil!

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New £90m University of Liverpool Laboratory

iStock_000006963239Medium1-300x299Work on a new £90m  research laboratory  at the University of Liverpool is now under way. The laboratory will accommodate 600 researchers.

A spokeswoman from the University of Liverpool stated, The development will support research in three key areas in which Liverpool already has an international standing – infectious diseases, cancer, and digestive diseases.

“The facility will provide an inter-disciplinary research environment to enable scientists to contribute more effectively to the major health challenges of the 21st century.”

The research teams which will mobve into the new laboraotry currently work in the Duncan Building and the University Clinical Development Department – both parts of the Royal Liverpool Hospital.

The first phase of the Unniversity of Liverpool development is planned to be finished by July 2011.

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