A KTN showcase event gave growing engineering biology companies the platform to demonstrate their recent progress and reach new markets.

Amy Tayler, Synthetic Biology Special Interest Group

The speed at which the synthetic biology industrial base is growing, and the contribution it makes to the growing bioeconomy, were exemplified at the KTN’s Chemistry and Industrial Biotechnology Showcase 2017 in York last month.

The engineering biology session featured Dr Reuben Carr (Head of Chemical Biology, Ingenza), Dr James Field (CEO, LabGenius), Dr Orr Yarkoni (CEO, Colorifix), Dr Ben Reeve (CTO, Customem) and Richard Hammond (Technical Director and Head of Synthetic Biology, Cambridge Consultants). Together they demonstrated the how synthetic biology underpins different facets of the bioeconomy, from waste management to the textile industry and high value chemical manufacturing, and how these technologies can be adopted by end-users.

2017 has seen significant growth and private investment in these companies: three of the companies represented are moving into larger premises; three are currently recruiting; and Synthace, a collaborator of Cambridge Consultants, has just secured £7.3m in Series A funding to facilitate the adoption of the Antha operating system and language as a connecting platform for biotechnology.

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Synthetic biology wasn’t limited to the engineering biology session at the Showcase; it also featured in sessions on functional materials for targeted properties, innovation in the growing personal care market, and opportunities in medicines. The busy exhibition also included a joint stand representing the UK’s synthetic biology research centres and SynbiCITE, the UK’s innovation & knowledge centre for synthetic biology.

Dr Ben Reeve from Customem said, “It was a really brilliant event and I’ve met so many helpful people and companies that can help us grow.”

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The Showcase culminated in a Pitch Event, co-organised by KTN and BioVale. From an original list of 40 applicants, six entrepreneurial UK companies seeking investment pitched to a panel of investors including the Ellen McArthur Foundation, Capricorn Venture Partners, S’InvesTec LLC, Circularity Capital, and Enterprise Ventures. Two of the six shortlisted companies, Customem and Colorifix, pitched their engineering biology technologies, and Colorifix won the event with their revolutionary dyeing process to help the textile industry dramatically reduce its environmental impact in a cost-effective manner using synthetic biology. You can read more about the pitch event and the finalists here.

This Showcase was the third in a series of industrial biotechnology events from KTN, following events in 2013 and 2015. Until now, synthetic biology has been in the background, but it firmly stepped into the limelight this year, proving that synthetic biology is no longer just one to watch, it’s one to adopt.

KTN has recently published a UK Synthetic Biology Landscape. If you’d like to know more about relevant synthetic biology activities, please join the KTN’s synthetic biology special interest group (SynBio SIG) and take part in the discussion on LinkedIn and Twitter.