SCIENTISTS in the region are to share in £45m of Government funding to work with industry on new advances in biotechnology.

Universities and Science Minister David Willetts today (Wednesday, December 18) announced that Durham University would share in an initial £18m to develop networks with companies and other universities to harness the properties of metals found in biological molecules.

Researchers from a diversity of disciplines will work together to exploit biological molecules for a range of uses including the production and processing of biopharmaceuticals, materials, valuable chemicals and sustainable energy-supply.

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The initial funding will be shared between 13 networks and has come from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council under its Networks in Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy (NIBB) project. It allows access to a further £45m in funding to drive economic growth and create jobs.

Network Principal Investigator Nigel Robinson, professor in both 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.”

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