Merja Penttilä obtains over 1 million euro funding to synthetic biology from the Wihuri Foundation

Jenny and Antti Wihuri Foundation has granted on 9 October 2018 funding for the establishment of a Centre for Young Synbio Scientists, a programme led by Professor Merja Penttilä. The funding is in total 1 055 000 euros for the first 3-year period.
Merja Penttilä

The funding will support young researches in their PhD and post-doctoral research, which is based on synthetic biology. The programme advances development of synthetic biology methods and research in Finland and its application in biotechnology. The aim is to educate young scientists to become visionary and responsible future actors and decision-makers.

Synthetic biology, synbio, is a new, rapidly advancing scientific field, which is based on the design and construction of living cells as we humans want them to be. We can utilize all functionality found in nature or build into the cells properties that are coded by synthetic genes designed by us. Synbio will revolutionize industrial biology in particular: we can design and quickly construct microbial cells that produce proteins, chemicals and bioplastics by using synbio methods, supported by automation and robotics. 

Multidisciplinary research and new business ideas

The funding also supports the establishment of a BioGarage. This is an open access living room and laboratory, where young scientists from different fields can create projects and test business ideas.

”Synbio combines biology, engineering sciences and artificial intelligence. It will have a significant role for our sustainable future in the next industrial revolution”, tells research professor Merja Penttilä.

“This is a good example of the collaboration between Aalto University and VTT. VTT’s Research Professor Merja Penttilä also holds a position of Adjunct professor in Aalto University”, says the Dean of the Aalto University School of Chemical Engineering Janne Laine. “Aalto University encourages multidisciplinary studies. Centre for Young Synbio Scientists will support the multidisciplinary research of about 20 young scientists. Otaniemi campus is ideal for synthetic biology, as the university and VTT have strong expertise in industrial biotechnology, materials science, nanotechnologies and artificial intelligence”, Laine continues.

Aalto University and VTT are also financially supporting the Centre.

More information:

Merja Penttilä
Research Professor, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd
Adjunct Professor, Aalto University
[email protected]
[email protected]
tel. +358 40 700 0163

Photo by Mikko Rikala