Access keys

Skip to content Accessibility Home News, events and publications Site map Search Privacy policy Help Contact us Terms of use

Unlocking cycles of poverty with £4.1 million investment in industrial biotechnology

Copyright: Toa55/iStock/Thinkstock
News from: Global Challenges Research Fund

From preventing kidney disease to producing mosquito repellent, BBSRC is awarding £4.1 million to three projects seeking to sustainably improve human and animal health using industrial biotechnology.

These projects come as a result of the ‘Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy in the Developing World’ Global Challenges Research Funding call, which invited research proposals seeking to tackle the challenges of advancing a low-carbon bioeconomy by developing renewable products and bioenergy sources in developing countries.

In sub-Saharan Africa large proportions of population live in absolute poverty and live without electricity. This lower energy equity in developing countries means people rely on dangerous and inefficient forms of cooking, potentially causing pulmonary diseases and agricultural sustainability issues where wood and agricultural wastes are burned.

By using biological resources including animal cells, plants, algae, marine life, fungi and micro-organisms, Industrial biotechnology can produce and process materials, chemicals and energy in a cleaner and more sustainable way. Industrial Biotechnology has the potential to unlock cycles of poverty by simultaneously remediating land, air and water, developing energy security, job creation, income diversification, rural development and improvements in the general health of the population as well as an impact on carbon emissions to reduce the consequences of climate change.

Dr Colin Miles, Head of Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy at BBSRC, said

“These projects are excellent examples of how the power of biology through the application of industrial biotechnology can impact the developing world and provide developing countries opportunities to overcome many of the barriers to their economic development. By working in partnership with ODA countries through the Global Challenges Research Fund, these projects will harness excellent UK bioscience coupled with local expertise to produce low-cost energy and resources for communities and industries, and support sustainable long-term economic growth.”

Announced today, the projects will contribute towards improving animal and human health, with a sustainable approach.

Project Principal investigator Organisation
Bioremediation to climate cyanotoxins in drinking water, where contamination is linked to the increasing incidence of Chronic Kidney Disease in Sri Lanka Christine Edwards The Robert Gordon University
Cultivation of Mentha species in Sub-Saharan Africa to produce essential oils and nepetalactone, a topical mosquito repellent, in Uganda Simon Scofield Cardiff University
Bioremediation of waste water streams generating potable water (and energy in the form of biomethane) in Uganda and India Andrew Ross University of Leeds

These projects will develop the potential to utilise different biogenic feedstocks like crop residues for the purpose of generating multiple (valuable) products (for example energy, pharmaceutical/chemical precursors and clean water) in a sustainable way using biotechnologies to help support economic and welfare activities in the developing world.

You can find out more about industrial biotechnology and Bioenergy within BBSRC here: Industrial biotechnology and bioenergy

The call is funded from the UK government’s £1.5 billion Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), which aims to support scientifically excellent research that meets the criteria for classification of expenditure as Official Development Assistance (ODA).


The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is part of UK Research and Innovation, a non-departmental public body funded by a grant-in-aid from the UK government.

BBSRC invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.

Funded by government, BBSRC invested £469 million in world-class bioscience in 2016-17. We support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.

More information about UK Research and Innovation.
More information about BBSRC, our science and our impact.
More information about BBSRC strategically funded institutes.


UK Research and Innovation Media Office

Tags: GCRF press release Industrial biotechnology