Centre for Engineering Biology

The Centre’s research is broad and deep, addressing a diversity of scientific questions with wide ranging impacts for society, industry, the economy and our planet. It aims to build on existing strengths in Synthetic Biology, attracting new interdisciplinary collaborations and driving impact.

The Centre embraces a community of more than 50 research groups and 200 researchers spanning biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, engineering, informatics, medicine and social sciences.

It is underpinned by specialist research facilities including Edinburgh Genome Foundry, the world’s largest automated DNA assembly platform, and EdinOmics, for mass spectrometry, metabolomics and proteomics analysis.


The Centre for Engineering Biology has evolved from SynthSys (the University of Edinburgh Centre for Synthetic and Systems Biology) and the UKRI-funded UK Centre for Mammalian Synthetic Biology.

Systems biology aims to understand how genes and proteins interact and endow cells with the characteristics associated with life, such as the ability to sense, move, grow and reproduce.

Synthetic biology aims to break down the genome into smaller parts to better understand how they contribute to how living systems work; researchers then either re-use or redesign these genetic parts to build new systems with a variety of novel and useful purposes.

Research will include the synthetic biology in which Edinburgh is already strong, but also engineering of biology for 'green', or sustainable, chemistry, which will lead to more environmentally friendly ways of producing food, fuel, alternative materials and chemicals, and the engineering of mammalian systems for a range of medical technologies, including cell therapies and tissue engineering.