Fostering a Synthetic Biology standards agenda through the Centre for Engineering Biology, Metrology and Standards

  • Posted on 10 March, 2020

Synthetic biology is seen as having huge potential to cut across different concepts, capabilities and technologies and transform processes within industry and biological research in the UK. However, challenges emerge at the scale-up stage of the value chain, and the UK engineering biology community regards internationally recognised standardisation and metrology resources as an essential requirement in reducing uncertainty and in overcoming the barriers they encounter en route to commercialisation.

It’s widely accepted that there is a lack of knowledge of the ways in which companies are currently employing synthetic biology, and their plans for the future. This includes the general enablers to, as well as constraints of, synthetic biology in current innovative environments.

A workshop was recently hosted by SynbiCITE and NPL, was held at the Imperial College Innovation and Translation Centre for the UK Synthetic Biology community. Industrialists, academics, the UK’s National Measurement Institutes and policy makers spent the day discussing the measurements and standards needed to help the UK synthetic biology industry improve the manufacturing and adoption of new products.

Dr Tabasum Farzaneh, Senior Industrial Officer at SynbiCITE, is involved in managing the commercial and strategic strand of this agenda on behalf of SynbiCITE Co-Directors, Professors Paul Freemont and Richard Kitney and Dr Michael Adeogun (Head of Life Science and Strategy at NPL).

Dr Farzaneh organised the workshop with a view to helping establish a ‘framework’ for the standardisation of the physical composition and the description of biological parts, as well as a controlled vocabulary to aid design and ensure interoperability in synthetic biology/engineering biology.

The morning consisted of a series of presentations, including from the UK Measurement System Laboratories, SynbiCITE Co-Directors Profs. Richard Kitney and Paul Freemont and from invited industry speakers.

Stephanie Brooking from Evonetix, Michal Legiewicz from Touchlight, Ian Fotheringham from Ingenza and Michael Roberts from AskBio all gave fascinating talks on the novel approaches and standardisation strategies they’ve considered when developing their respective platform technologies.

The real world practical steps discussed made for a fruitful and stimulating series of breakout discussions in the afternoon surrounding the measurement approaches, standards, computer-aided biology and biological chassis required to push the agenda forward.

The day was wrapped up by a presentation from Ben Sheridan from the British Standards Institute; an integral part of the ecosystem supporting the Synthetic Biology community in the UK and internationally.

The day with culminated with a drinks reception and tour of the London Biofoundry The day with culminated with a drinks reception and tour of the London Biofoundry

The Translation and Innovation Hub is home of SynbiCITE’s London DNA Foundry, which enables the industrial automation of construction and validation of biological systems.

The London Biofoundry is collaborating with NPL (the UK's National Measurement Institute) through the virtual centre for Engineering Biology, Metrology and Standards. A higher order cell free platform for intracellular measurements is being developed that will generate candidate reference materials and synthesis protocols in the form of a toolbox. Industry confidence in the higher order biological reference materials that are developed will be ensured through their validation and certification by NPL.

If you would like to get involved in this necessary agenda via a special interest group please click here ( The intention is to form a community that is committed to addressing the measurement and standards constraints that this sector faces, and which cuts across the breadth of Synthetic Biology.

Related links:

Workshop Agenda

The virtual centre for Engineering Biology, Metrology and Standards

The Innovation and Knowledge Centre for Synthetic Biology

The London Biofoundry

The National Physical Laboratory – Biometrology

The Translation and Innovation Hub