Rosalind Franklin Institute - Next Generation Chemistry

Lead Research Organisation: Rosalind Franklin Institute
Department Name: Research


The Life Sciences sector forms a key part of the UK economy: it employs over 220,000 people, contributes significantly to GDP and UK balance of trade, and is crucial for developing leading-edge treatments. It is underpinned by the UK's world-leading research base in the health and life sciences. Many key research breakthroughs are, in turn, enabled by advances in engineering and physical sciences (EPS) research - which provide ever more sophisticated instrumentation and methods to support the study of living organisms (from microbes to plants, animals and the human body) and biological processes (including both disease pathology and drug action). R&D across all parts of this ecosystem - from fundamental understanding to applied research to product development - is crucial for the delivery of long-term economic growth and continued advances in agriculture, food security, healthcare and public health. Historic models of innovation have often been linear, involving a degree of serendipity. Disruptive technologies and scientific breakthroughs will be accelerated if physical scientists, engineers, life scientists and industry work together, and at scale. This is the domain of the Rosalind Franklin Institute (RFI): with a focal point (Hub) at Harwell Science and Innovation Campus, linked to formal Spokes in leading HE ls across the UK, it will integrate complementary expertise from academia and industry to create a national centre of excellence for methods development at the convergence of the physical and life sciences.

The diverse chemical control and editing of biological samples has profound potential well beyond current methods in traditional modes of Physical or Biological Sciences. This will ultimately complement and iteratively determine the value of other unifying goals of the Franklin such as Imaging. The ability to 'edit-characterize-and-image' could provide a grand challenge method for not only observing (imaging) biology but controlling (editing/treating) and hence understanding it in its post-translational state as a new mode of Medicine. The roadmap for Next Generation Chemistry (NGC) will unify several sub-projects that will span this spectrum of chemical control and understanding of biology.

The NGC theme uses the rubric of:

Construct (Synthetic Biology) -> Understand (Chemical Biology) -> Control (Chemical Medicine)

In Construct, we aim to build and edit complex biological entities from the bottom-up.
In Understand, we characterize and hence correlate built and modulated structures with function.
In Control, we exploit this understanding to iteratively modulate and correct function with application primarily in Medicine and Biotechnology.


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