10 Years of the MIB (2006 - 2016)

10 Years of the MIB


In 2006, the first faculty members moved into the John Garside Building, home to the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology based at The University of Manchester.

The scientific vision for the MIB began to emerge in the late nineties at a time when it was generally recognized that biosciences were destined to undergo a dramatic transition to higher levels of quantitative precision. To achieve this necessitated a new approach; an environment that would foster a scientific culture in which there were no barriers between disciplines, where team science is considered key to the creation of new knowledge and capabilities important to solving societal problems. This initiative would mark the beginning of a renaissance in modern British bioscience where multi- and inter- disciplinary approaches to problem solving would soon become commonplace.

As a hub for EU and Industry funded programs the partnerships and relationships we have forged with other universities, government, RCUK and industry have been fundamental to our success. Home to over 500 researchers and 47 academic groups we have published over >2800 publications (>30% in top 10%) in collaboration with colleagues across campus and industry and academic partners in over 70 countries. We have secured over £160 million in research and industry funding since inception, with a current live portfolio of >£85M. Our pipeline of Discovery Through Innovation has supported 51 patents, 8 spin-out companies and more than 230 new invention disclosures and 11 licenses.

We are committed to training the interdisciplinary scientists of tomorrow through our EU science and training programmes. Over 30% of our 47 academic staff have been awarded professorial fellowships and four members of our faculty hold prestigious Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Awards for their exceptional contribution to their given research fields.

As we celebrate a decade at the MIB, this timeline highlights some of our most notable achievements and endorses the value of interdisciplinary collaboration and cross-sector partnerships working as we seek to find innovative solutions to some of the biggest questions facing the planet.


Vision to develop an institute devoted to interdisciplinary bioscience at Manchester begins to formulate that would later become the Manchester Interdisciplinary Biocentre
The idea of developing an institute devoted to interdisciplinary bioscience in Manchester was first muted in the late 1990s during discussions regarding the expansion of biosciences at UMIST to parallel its traditional strengths in the physical sciences and engineering. Instrumental to the vision and early development of the Institute were several key individuals including the then Vice Chancellor of UMIST, Prof Bob Boucher CBE FREng and MIB’s Founding Director and Head of Biomolecular Sciences Prof John McCarthy amongst others. Prof Boucher’s successor as Vice Chancellor, Prof John Garside CBE, was particularly influential in the delivery of the Institute during and post-merger in 2004 of UMIST and The Victoria University of Manchester.

Joint Infrastructure Fund established
The UK government, in collaboration with The Wellcome Trust, established the £600 million Joint Infrastructure Fund (JIF), the largest public private partnership for science, for the renewal of university infrastructure which would provide significant funds towards the build of the MIB.


Architect's model of the proposed Garside BuildingUMIST awarded £15 million from The Wellcome Trust Joint Infrastructure Fund
The Wolfson Foundation awarded a further £2 million, with UMIST allocating £5.3 million from the Strategic Research Infrastructure Fund to develop an interdisciplinary biocentre at Manchester. Architects Anshen Dyer, specialists in research and healthcare were appointed to lead the project working alongside Shepherd Construction.

The investment and commitment of the UK government, The Wellcome Trust and The University of Manchester would mark the beginning of a renaissance in modern British bioscience where multi- and inter- disciplinary approaches to problem solving would become commonplace.


Construction begins on the first university-based purpose-built interdisciplinary research institute of its kind in the UK.
The architecture of the MIB reflects the needs of interdisciplinary science, featuring open-plan, multifunctional laboratories and a wide range of high-tech facilities as well as generously proportioned meeting and atrium areas to promote interaction, spontaneous discussion and shared research.

MIB interiorThe Institute provides state-of-the art research and support space for approximately 600 research staff over five floors, a total of 13,100 m2 (£38M). The building is split into a modular open lab block wrapped by a more free form office/support block. The void space between these two elements forms an atrium, around which write-up areas, meeting spaces, display areas and Interface Cafe are clustered.

David Leys awarded The Royal Society Research Fellowship 2003-2008)


National Centre for Text Mining (NacTeM) established
NacTeM is the first publicly funded texting mining centre in the world.

Phase I (2004-2007) was jointly funded by JISC (£1M) with contribution from EPSRC/BBSRC. Phase II funding followed with a further £1.8M from JISC (2007-2011). The Centre has been fully sustainable since 2011.

The Victoria University of Manchester and Manchester Institute of Science and Technology merge to form The University of Manchester.

John McCarthy publishes “Tackling the challenges of interdisciplinary bioscience” in Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology, Vol 5 Nov 2004 that would form the basis of MIB’s interdisciplinary ideology.


Centre of Excellence for Biocatalysis, Biotransformations and Biocatalytic Manufacture (CoEBio3) CoEBio3 is established focussing on new biocatalyst-based processes to meet the changing needs of industry in the next 10-20 years. Signs agreement with first group of industrial affiliates and initiates internal research programme funding a number of PhD students. CoEBio3 relocates to the MIB in 2006.

Douglas Kell awarded Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award (05- 08)


MIB exteriorManchester Interdisciplinary Biocentre completed.
Official opening held on 26 October 2006.
Winner ‘Building of the Year’ Manchester Chamber of Commerce.

Manchester Centre for Integrative Systems Biology (MCISB) founded
Awarded £6.4 million by the BBSRC/EPSRC to pioneer the development of new experimental and computational technologies in Systems Biology.

A world-class professorial team including Douglas Kell, Hans Westerhoff and Pedro Mendes, rated best Systems Biology expertise in Europe, steered our commitment in this burgeoning field which continues to underpin much of our research strategy and activity.


Systems Biology Doctoral Training Centre established
The Systems Biology DTC would train over 50 students over the next five years offering bespoke Systems Biology training and connected to the European Systems Biology Training networks (Marie Curie NucSys), and to the network of European Systems Biology Doctoral Training Centres as well as Industry partners.

Nicholas Turner awarded Astra Zeneca/GlaxoSmithKline/Pfizer UK Prize for Process Chemistry Research.

Sabine Flitsch awarded Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award (07-12)


Spin-out company C4X Discovery founded
C4X Discovery established by Andrew Almond and is helping pharmaceutical companies speed up their drug discovery pipelines. C4X Discovery floated on the London Stock Exchange in 2013, valued at £31M.

Taking a community approach to systems biology
Douglas Kell’s seminal paper “A consensus yeast metabolic network reconstruction obtained from a community approach to systems biology” published in Nature Biotechnology 26, 1155 – 1160 (2008) was extremely influential in setting the paradigm for future work in this area.

Prof Douglas KellDouglas Kell appointed Chief Executive of BBSRC
Douglas Kell was appointed as the new Chief Executive of the BBSRC, the UK’s leading funding agency for academic research and training in the non-clinical life sciences. Douglas was seconded (0.8 FTE) as Chief Executive, Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council from 2008-2013.

MIB team led by Nigel Scrutton secure £2.4 million and the first BBSRC SLoLa (Strategic Longer and Larger) grant
The BBSRC’s Strategic Longer and Larger Grants (sLoLaS) scheme funds high-value long-term research projects. This particular project will look at “Dynamically-coupled enzyme catalysis: towards a step change in our understanding of enzyme catalysed reactions”.

NaCTeM appoints Sophia Ananiadou as Director
From 2008-2015 NacTeM provided text mining services for Europe PubMedCentral.


BIOTRAINS (Marie Curie ITN) established
This ITN trains a trans-European network of industrially oriented white biotechnologists fully skilled in the application of biocatalysis to sustainable chemical manufacturing.

John Vickerman awarded Royal Society of Chemistry Theophilus Red Award
For his outstanding contribution to the development and application of secondary ion mass spectrometry techniques for surface analysis and 3D chemical imaging of organic and biological systems.

Nicholas Turner awarded Royal Society of Chemistry Industrial Organic Award

Nigel Scrutton awarded Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award 09-14

Schools open dayFirst Annual Schools open day held
MIB staff and students open their doors to over 200 A-A/S students from across the North of England. Students witnessed and participated in a number of activities including interactive research stands and laboratory tours and demonstrations.


Prof Nigel ScruttonNigel Scrutton Chair in Molecular Enzymology, is appointed new Director of MIB
Professor Nigel Scrutton is appointed Director of MIB. He commented:

“MIB needs to enhance further its international profile in key areas of biotechnology including industrial biotechnology and bioenergy (IBBE) and biotechnology for healthcare.   Closer interaction with industrial partners and leading international groups will drive more effective translation of MIB discovery science towards commercial exploitation”.

MIB Fellowship Scheme launched – developing the next generation of interdisciplinary researchers
Offering an attractive fellowship extension scheme offering career track fellowships with an additional 1-2 years additional support.

The MIB has recruited five fellows to date who have gone on to secure tenure at The University.

Sam Hay awarded BBSRC David Phillips Fellowship (2010-2015) on “Linking experiment to theory: Quantum entanglement during enzyme catalysis.” Sam has gone on to secure tenure at The University of Manchester.

Professor Jun’ichi Tsujii, Scientific Director of NaCTeM and Professor of Computational Linguistics and Natural Language Processing at The University of Tokyo receives Japan Purple Ribbon Medal of Honor for his contributions to natural language processing and biomedical text mining.


Spectromics spin out formed by Roy Goodacre
Spectromics provides an innovative point-of-prescription test for bacterial infections that guides the treatment of antibiotics.

Chris Blanford awarded EPSRC Career Acceleration Fellowship (2011- 2016)
“Three dimensional laccase electrodes for miniaturised fuel cell power sources.” Chris has gone on to secure tenure at The University of Manchester.

Solvay collaboration for the development of new materials
Aline Miller will lead a major collaboration with international chemicals manufacturer Solvay SA into enabling technologies such as regenerative medicine, sensors and electronics. The University has entered into a new framework agreement which builds on existing collaboration between the University and Solvay, based in Belgium, and represents a major milestone in open innovation for both organisations. The agreement will accelerate new projects, involving lead academics from across several schools in the University’s Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences and represents a major investment by Solvay of more than £1.4m over four years.

Professor Sabine Flitsch awarded €5.2M to coordinate FP7 project ‘GlycoBioM
Developing tools for the identification and detection of biomarkers in clinical samples and patients. Collaboration with academic partners and European SMEs has resulted in 5 filed patents, commercialisation of CA125 assay by Galab to diagnose and manage primary invasive epithelial ovarian/tubular cancer (iEOC) from benign tumours. Commercialisation of bioinformatics platform GlycoBase into Waters Corporation software. Nature Chemistry 6, 65–74 (2014)

Nicholas Turner awarded Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award (11-16)


Rebranding of MIB to Manchester Institute of Biotechnology
Over the years our research community and strategy evolved focussing more on emerging areas of excellence, such as industrial and medical biotechnology, energy and biomolecular engineering.

The name Manchester Institute of Biotechnology captures our leading research activity in many areas of biotechnology.

MIB interdisciplinary team led by Nicholas Turner secure £4.5 million BBSRC SLoLa
This 5 year project will explore the rapid evolution of enzymes and synthetic microorganisms for the development of industrial biocatalysis.

David Leys attains crystal structure of PARG which plays an important role in DNA repair. Nature Communications 4, Article number: 2164 This research will illuminate future drug-design efforts aimed at treating certain cancers.

Europe’s largest public-private partnership dedicated to the development of manufacturing sustainable pharmaceuticals launches
£21.2M project CHEM21 is led by Nicholas Turner and the pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline.

Academic and industrial researchers look to develop enzymatic methods for green oxidation chemistry
P4FIFTY is an FP7 funded European Marie Curie Training network of academic and industrial researchers looking to develop enzymatic methods for green oxidation chemistry through the isolation, redesign and application of cytochrome P450 enzymes.

Prof Eriko TakanoEriko Takano appointed as Chair in Synthetic Biology.
The Takano group is focused on the use of synthetic biology for the large scale genome-based re-engineering of antibiotic production that will aid in the combat against antibiotic resistant bacteria.

Rainer Breitling appointed as Chair in Synthetic and Systems Biology
The Breitling group explores the application of bioinformatics and systems biology techniques to the engineering of “designer microbes”, using metabolomics and transcriptomics in the diagnosis and debugging of the organisms created by synbio approaches.

Nigel Scrutton awarded EPSRC Established Career Fellowship (2012-2017)
on “Catalysis in motion: accessing how fast motions facilitate catalysis through pump-probe and fast time resolved spectroscopies.”

John Vickerman awarded the Médaille Pierre Chevenard by the Société Française de Métallurgie et de Matériaux (French Society for Metallurgy and Materials, SF2M)
John was awarded this medal for his work in the development of Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry representing the first time the medal has been awarded to someone outside France in over 40 years.


Researchers develop cheaper Hepatitis C treatment, a major global health problem affecting more than 200 million people worldwide
Nick Turner, in collaboration with the Free University of Amsterdam, has devised a highly efficient synthesis of Telaprevir, the leading medicine used in tackling Hepatitis C.

Nigel Scrutton and David Leys obtain crystal structure of KMO boosting efforts to find treatments for Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases

MIB NIBBsMIB leads four BBSRC Industrial-Academia Networks in Industrial Biotechnology and BioEnergy (NIBBs)
NPRONET, IBCARB, BIOCATNET, BIOPRONET – pooling skills from academia and business to develop research projects with the potential to overcome major challenges in the IBBE arena.

Clare Mills leads the world’s biggest study of food allergy iFAAM and forms spin out Reacta Biotech to develop food challenge materials for the diagnosis of food allergies.

Marie Curie Innovative Doctoral Programme launches MAGnetic Innovation in Catalysis (MAGIC)
This €3.4 million) grant is training the future generation of leading investigators in biological catalysis and enzymology.

Alberto Saiaini and Aline Miller form spin out PeptiGelDesign
PeptiGelDesign provides peptide hydrogels for biomedical and biotechnological applications, stem-cell culture and tissue engineering.

Aline Miller awarded Leverhulme Trust Research Leadership Award (2014-2018) for her work on “engineering the self-assembly of biomolecules for regenerative medicine.”

The Complex Life of Sugars exhibits at the prestigious Royal Society Summer Exhibition
TCLOS illustrates how the study of carbohydrates can help improve many aspects of our lives from renewable energy and materials to generating new medicines.

MIB UG team take Best UG Human Practices Award at iGEM
International Genetically Engineered Machine competition (iGEM)

Perdita Barran appointed Waters Corporation sponsored Chair in Mass Spectrometry and Director of the Michael Barber Centre for Collaborative Mass Spectrometry

Paul Popelier awarded EPSRC Established Career Fellowship (2013-2018) on “Reliable computational prediction of molecular assembly.”

Dr Alberto SaianiAlberto Saiani awarded EPSRC Early Career Research Fellowship (2013-2017) on “Developing a technological platform based on the fundamental understanding of peptide self-assembly for the design of novel biomaterials.”

Mike Buckley awarded a Royal Society University Research Fellowship (2013-2018) on “Molecular Timers”.


SYNBIOCHEM logoSynthetic Biology Centre for Fine and Speciality Chemicals is established
SYNBIOCHEM was one of six funded multidisciplinary Research Centres in Synthetic Biology established by BBSRC receiving £10.3 million from the BBSRC/EPSRC.

Industrial Biotechnology launched as one of five University of Manchester beacons
The UoM beacons have been selected as examples of pioneering discoveries, interdisciplinary collaboration and cross-sector partnerships that are tackling some of the biggest questions facing the planet. Global challenges, Manchester solutions.

Prof Kell and CBEDouglas Kell honoured in Queen’s New Year’s Honours
Douglas Kell was appointed Commander of the Order for the British Empire (CBE) for services to science and research in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours 2014.

Neil Dixon awarded BBSRC David Phillips Fellowship (2014-2018) on the “Development and application of next generation synthetic biology tools”.

Paulo Bartolo joins MIB as Chair in Advanced Manufacturing

The Bartolo group focus on biomanufacturing and computer aided design of scaffolds for tissue engineering.

Sabine Flitsch has been named the Royal Society of Chemistry Interdisciplinary Prize winner for 2014.


New, cleaner route to the production of hydrocarbons established
David Leys identifies the exact mechanism and structure of two key enzymes isolated from yeast moulds that together provide a new, cleaner route to the production of hydrocarbons.

Nigel Scrutton makes a breakthrough in the development of synthetic pathways that will enable renewable biosynthesis of the gas propane
This research has led to the formation of spin-out C3 Bio-Technologies.

Nigel Scrutton receives £3million funding boost
This project funded by BBSRC will harness the power of Synthetic Biology to propel chemicals and natural products production towards ‘green’ and sustainable manufacturing processes.

Published in Science researchers develop novel biocatalytic system that potentially allows for the efficient and environmentally benign production of organic chemical compounds used in many everyday products.
This new route offers potential economic as well as environmental benefits and will provide opportunities for industrial exploitation, including the synthesis of new chemical libraries that will support industrial and academic drug discovery programmes. Developing the use of biocatalysts within the chemical manufacturing industry could lead to efficient production routes to high yields of complex chemicals, whilst using less energy and generating less waste than conventional processes.

Superior biocatalyst for pravastatin production characterised enabling the efficient production of this blockbuster drug
Single-step fermentative production of the cholesterol-lowering drug pravastatin via reprogramming of Penicillium chrysogenum is characterised by Andrew Munro and industrial partners DSM enabling the efficient production of this blockbuster drug.

David Leys wins prestigious Wain Medal awarded to a young scientist doing excellent research at the biology-chemistry interface.

Anthony Green awarded BBSRC David Phillips Fellowship (2015-2020)
On “Designer Enzymes with Organocatalytic Functionality”. This research seeks to merge the fields of biocatalysis and organocatalysis in a manner that combines the benefits, and overcomes inherent limitations, associated with these disciplines.

Spin out Bio-Shape formed
Professors Sabine Flitsch, Nicholas Turner, Perdita Barran, Claire Eyers and Dr Hannah Roberts form spin out Bio-Shape Ltd providing native protein mass spectrometry and comprehensive glycosylation analysis.

Nicholas Turner wins The University of Manchester Researcher of the Year Award and leads Bio Catalysis and BioTransformations theme at UK Catalysis Hub at Harwell
The UK Catalysis Hub aims to establish a world-leading, comprehensive and coordinated programme of catalytic science in the UK; to develop new knowledge and promote innovation in and translation of catalytic science and technology and enable the UK to regain and retain its world leading position in catalysis.


ESOF 2016 logoMIB delivers FIVE science events as part of European City of Science
European Science Open Forum 2016 is hosted in Manchester.

  • To feed or not to feed? Early life nutrition and food allergy prevention (Clare Mills)
  • Will Synthetic Biology deliver the new bio-industrial revolution? (SYNBIOCHEM)
  • Synthetic Biology : Realizing the power of interdisciplinary science (SYNBIOCHEM)
  • Synthetic Biology : Designing and Building New Science, Business and Policy Relationships (SYNBIOCHEM)
  • Mass Spectrometry – Past, Present and Future (Perdita Barran)

Industrial Biotechnology MOOC launches April 2016 Exploring the ways in which chemistry, biology and engineering principles contribute to interdisciplinary efforts within industrial biotechnology to develop innovative processes and products that are economically viable, environmentally compatible and socially responsible.

Parkinson's UK logoSkin odour could lead to early diagnosis of Parkinson’s
A study led by Perdita Barran launched with funding from Parkinson’s UK to identify small molecules secreted by the skin believed to emit a subtle but unique scent in people in the early stages of Parkinson’s.

Sabine Flitsch and MEP Mairead McGuinnessSabine Flitsch joins MEP pairing scheme
Professor Sabine Flitsch with MEP Mairead McGuinness at Brussels Week Jan 25-29th 2016. The scheme aims to support the development of relationships between MEPs and scientists to improve access to scientific advice and deeper scientists’ understanding of the role of science in policy-making.

Sabine Flitsch and Nicholas Turner secure £3.2 million to develop Glycoenzymes for Bioindustries
The use of glycoenzymes for advanced manufacturing and diagnostics will be increasingly important as biopharmaceuticals, functional foods, and bio-based products come to dominate their respective markets.

This 5 year project will develop an expanded toolkit of glycoenzymes which can be produced at scale and which satisfy the requirements of industry. Approximately 1000 different enzymes will be produced along with a comprehensive database of benchmarked performance data, and selected examples will be produced at industrial specification for evaluation by industrial partners. This project will increase the use of glycoenzymes, shaping future R&D and transforming industrial processes.

David Leys awarded Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award (2016-2020)


MIB 10 years logo