Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is the Engineering Biology Research Consortium?
  2. What is the origin of EBRC?
  3. What is the research mission of EBRC?
  4. Why a new nonprofit organization?
  5. Who is leading this?
  6. How does membership work?
  7. What's in it for companies?
  8. What's in it for academic members?
  9. How can students and postdocs get involved?
  10. Why the name change?
  11. How will this be supported?
  12. How does EBRC interact with the international research community?
  1. What is the Engineering Biology Research Consortium (EBRC)?

EBRC aims to be the leading organization in the US to bring together the synthetic biology community. It will develop a roadmap for the synthetic biology research community, identify research areas of greatest potential impact, and specific goals toward them. EBRC will catalyze and support collaborative research teams to work toward those goals. To increase our national and international research capacity, EBRC will engage universities to further pursue synthetic biology and train the future biotechnology workforce. As biological engineering enables more products to become a part of our lives, EBRC will engage with policymakers and the broader public about the challenges and opportunities of advancing this field.

  1. What is the origin of EBRC?

EBRC was created as an independent non-profit following the end of the Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center (Synberc), a ten-year, multi-institutional NSF center founded in 2006 to help lay the foundations for the then-nascent field of synthetic biology. Synberc was one of the US’s largest early investments in synthetic biology. It helped develop many key technologies, trained a generation of synthetic biologists, and established a unique industrial-academic synthetic biology community. Synberc's funding ended in 2016, leaving the US without a central organization to bring together a diverse range of scientists and engineers to identify common research challenges and create a strategic national plan to lead the field and keep the US competitive with international efforts.

  1. What is the research mission of EBRC?

EBRC will help universities and institutions catalyze teams to develop foundational tools and technologies that are broadly useful to the research community and enable applications in many areas. The EBRC's Program Committee, in conjunction with the broader community, develops research themes and potential activities, with attention to translational projects of interest to industry. These will be leveraged into a research roadmap intended for broad use.

  1. Why a new nonprofit organization?

By establishing its own 501(c)3 non-profit organization, EBRC believes it can grow as an independent, credible, and trusted leader for the engineering biology community.

  1. Who is leading this?

EBRC is here for its academic and institutional members as well as the broader research community. It is led by a Board of Directors responsible for setting the mission of the non-profit, establishing policies and procedures, and approving the strategic roadmap. In 2016 the Board selected its Executive Director, who will lead the day-to-day operations of EBRC, be the public face of the organization, and be responsible for establishing EBRC programs.

  1. How does membership work?

There are two forms of membership: institutional members (companies and research institutions) and academic members (individuals). Institutional members support EBRC with an annual membership fee based on the size of their organization. Academic members are individual professors and independent researchers at universities and research institutes. On an annual basis, new academic members are nominated by existing members, recommended by the Membership Committee, and approved by the Board. Members are expected to participate fully in retreats and other EBRC activities, including EBRC's roadmapping activities.

  1. What's in it for companies?

Our industry partners interact with EBRC's cutting-edge researchers and students at our semi-annual retreats, where academic members share their latest (often unpublished) work in a community of trust and openness. Partners also have an important voice in shaping the consortium's research directions, as well as the roadmapping effort that will help guide the academic research community and inform federal research priorities.

  1. What's in it for academic members?

Academic members interact with other academic and industrial partners in a collaborative and open environment. Academic members will help identify research challenges and suggest ways that the US can accelerate the advance of engineering biology responsibly and for the greatest public benefit. EBRC students and postdocs have a unique opportunity to present their work to a leading community of industry and academic researchers and participate in outreach and public engagement initiatives, often resulting in new training and skills and career opportunities.

  1. How can students and postdocs get involved?

Students and postdocs in EBRC academic member labs will be affiliated with the consortium. EBRC has a Student and Postdoctoral Association (SPA) that coordinates student and postdoc activities. The SPA creates activities tailored to student and postdocs interests and needs. It will build on existing programs such as the Industry Mentoring Program, travel scholarships, career workshops, liaison with international students, and industry visits.

  1. Why the name change?

With input from the synthetic biology community, we chose the name Engineering Biology Research Consortium to signal a real change in both our membership and goals. Engineering biology is a broad and widely used term that can help bring together a broader range of participants in government, industry, other scientific disciplines, and the general public.

  1. How is this supported?

EBRC is supported by a combination of federal grants (National Science Foundation) and institutional membership fees. We are also seeking funding from other federal agencies that need input from the engineering biology community on issues of national importance. We may also seek support from private foundations in the future.

  1. What about the international research community?

International organizations are welcome participants in EBRC and enjoy the same benefits as US members. There are many funding mechanisms in the US and elsewhere that encourage international collaboration, and we welcome the opportunity to partner with non-US researchers and institutions to engineer biological solutions to global challenges. EBRC is currently establishing a policy for non-US based academic members.