Chippenham MP and Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology Michelle Donelan has said that engineering biology has the potential to “redefine our world in ways previously unimaginable.”

This comes after the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology published a policy paper entitled National Vision for Engineering Biology.

Engineering biology involves designing or modifying biological systems, like cells or organisms, for practical purposes, such as medical advancements or sustainable solutions.

The policy paper described engineering biology as the power behind “the next revolution in biological sciences” and included plans to invest £2 billion over 10 years in the field.

It also announced six priorities for the future of the discipline: world-leading research and development, infrastructure, talent and skills, regulations and standards, take up by the broader economy, and responsible and trustworthy innovation.

The Chippenham MP took to X – formerly known as Twitter – to speak on the subject.

Donelan wrote: “As one of our five critical technologies, I see it forming part of a bigger interlocking picture, where AI can predict the shapes of proteins and design molecules for life saving drugs, and quantum sensing can offer fresh insights into how biology works at the smallest scales.

“To realise these opportunities, we must grip the risks that come with them by supporting responsible innovation that takes social and ethical concerns seriously.”

In an article published the same day, Donelan went on to give examples of the potential uses of engineering biology: “Scientists are engineering microbes that can produce new biofuels, non-polluting dyes, plastics, chemicals and foods.

“We can build bacteria that breaks down pollutants, and even improve trees’ ability to absorb carbon dioxide.  

“Engineering biology can revolutionise agriculture by creating modified plants that are more resilient, nutritious and sustainable.

“From drought-resistant crops to bio-fortified grains, its tools have the potential to feed the world in a changing climate.”

Donelan has also been vocal about her support of the UK’s planned investment in AI, announced in the autumn statement.

She has held the position of Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology since July 2023, when she returned from maternity leave.

She held other positions in Cabinet from 2020 to 2023 under Boris Johnson, Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak.

Donelan has been the Conservative MP for Chippenham since 2015.