SCIENTISTS at a North-East university have secured access to £45m Government funding to develop biotechnological work.

Durham University has received an initial £18m share of cash to work with companies and fellow universities on the properties of metals found in biological molecules.

Bosses say about a third of genes need metals, such as iron, calcium and zinc, for their products to work, and researchers will work together to exploit the molecules for use in biopharmaceuticals, chemicals and energy supply.

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The work will look at a range of issues, including ways to use leftover food and make chemicals from plant cells.

Nigel Robinson, network principal investigator and professor in the School of Biological and Biomedical Sciences and the Department of Chemistry at Durham University, said: “By working with industry we will translate knowledge of metals in biology into products to benefit everyday lives as well as providing employment and economic opportunities.”

The initial funding has comes from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council under its Networks in Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy project, and allows access to a further £45m in funding to create jobs.

Researchers at Durham will work with staff from the University of Kent.

David Willetts, Universities and Science Minister, added: “To get ahead in the global race we need to turn our world-beating science and research into world-beating products and services.

“These networks will unlock the huge potential of biotechnology and bioenergy, such as finding ways to use leftover food, and creating chemicals from plant cells."