New UK-wide AI and engineering biology consortium


Blue illustration of strands of DNA

A new UK-wide consortium at the intersection of AI and engineering biology has been launched by Imperial’s Centre for Synthetic Biology.

AI-4-EB is a collaboration with seven industrial partners and ten academic institutions. It will leverage and combine key technologies in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Engineering Biology (EB) to enable and pioneer a new era of world-leading advances.

The consortium has been awarded £1.5m of funding by UKRI to increase capability for predictive design and optimisation of engineered biosystems across different EB scales. This will significantly accelerate translation of research and innovation into applications of wide commercial and societal impact, part of a recent investment by UKRI to boost research and innovation in Engineering Biology in the UK.

Professor Guy-Bart Stan, Department of Bioengineering, PI of the AI-4-EB consortium grant, Co-Director of the Imperial College Centre of Excellence in Synthetic Biology and Deputy Director of the EPSRC CDT in BioDesign Engineering said ‘Combining AI and synthetic biology opens up new possibilities for accelerating the analysis, design and optimisation of engineered biological systems. This is a very exciting time indeed to do research at the confluence of two of the most promising enabling technologies of our time.’

Research and innovation within the AI-4-EB consortium will also build on training developed as part of the EPSRC CDT in BioDesign Engineering, which integrates data science and coding as core aspects of its Master’s and PhD training model. Professor Geoff Baldwin, Co-Director of the Imperial College Centre for Synthetic Biology and Director of the CDT said ‘I am really excited by the new AI-4-EB consortium, it will enable us to leverage the advances in training we have put in place through the CDT and create new links with advanced AI researchers across the UK.’

Activities within the AI-4-EB consortium will be supported by Imperial’s recent strategic initiative for AI-enabled research and innovation, Imperial-X, for which Professors Stan and Baldwin are leading ‘Closed-loop Interpretable AI for Biological Systems’ as part of Imperial-X Life.

World-class expertise

This new funding will enable Centre for Synthetic Biology researchers to build on their world-class expertise in EB to further develop ground-breaking work in this emerging field. The Centre encompasses more than 40 world-leading research groups across the Faculties of Engineering, Natural Sciences and Medicine – the largest grouping of world-leading research groups focused on Engineering Biology in Europe. Over the last five years, Centre members have been awarded combined grant funding of more than £35m and authored over 500 publications in leading venues. Several startups have emerged from the Centre, including some of the most successful UK-based companies in Engineering Biology: LabGenius, Puraffinity and Phytoform Labs.

The award will support four leading-light projects with a focus on AI development for biological systems and integration of advanced automation technologies. In addition, AI-4-EB will build a national network of inter-connected and inter-disciplinary researchers to both develop and apply next-generation AI technologies to biological problems.

AI-4-EB Consortium Manager, Dr Gifty Tetteh, said ‘In addition to our four light-leading project streams, we have recently awarded three new spotlight projects using the flexible seed-funding associated with the AI-4-EB transition award. These collaborative and interdisciplinary sandpit projects allow the consortium to deliver new transformative work that addresses unmet needs in the field and enhance our capability development.’


Helen Wilkes

Helen Wilkes
Faculty of Engineering

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