Bioengineering: seventh report of session 2009-10, report, together with formal minutes, oral and written evidence

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This report finds that the UK has an excellent research base but is still failing to maximise its potential by translating research into wealth and health. The road to economic recovery will depend, in part, on exploitation of the UK's research base, which in turn requires efficient translation to generate returns on investments. Some areas of bioengineering, such as stem cells, have clearly benefited from strong Government leadership and support, backed up by generous levels of funding from both the public and private sectors. Others, such as genetically modified (GM) crops, are less well supported and funded. This is curious when GM crops are considered by the Government to be safe and offer potential benefits. GM crops are certainly the poor cousin in the bioengineering family, and we strongly urge the Government to signal its support for GM crops as well as improving the regulatory situation in Europe. Regulation of bioengineering is complex and researchers have found that regulations inhibit research and translation, either because of regulatory complexity (stem cells) or a flawed operation of the regulatory process (GM crops). There are good indications that the UK is learning from past experiences in bioengineering when handling new emerging technologies, such as synthetic biology. The Government and Research Councils have recognised the value of synthetic biology early, and are providing funding. The Committee is also concerned that while research is well funded there is not enough forethought about synthetic biology translation, for example developing DNA synthesis capability, which would provide the UK with an excellent opportunity to get ahead internationally. If this is not addressed, synthetic biology runs the risk of becoming yet another story of the UK failing to capitalise on a strong research base and falling behind internationally.

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Basic research
Translating research
Bioengineering regulation
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