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Changzhou: Embarking on the new frontier of synthetic biology
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In the past few months, synthetic biology has been the buzzword in Changzhou. With three biology industry parks already unveiled or launched in September and October, the city is gearing up for this new track of growth.

Synthetic biology, known as the third bio-tech revolution, is one of the most disruptive and cutting-edge technologies in the 21st century. Over 500 institutes in 40 countries have sponsored the research in this field. Last year, China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) released the blueprint for bio-economy, and Jiangsu province also made synthetic biology a priority of future industry development.

Fostering a new industry

At present, Changzhou boasts 35 synthetic biology companies and research institutes, among which sixteen are enterprises above designated size, and eight are titled as “companies supplying special, innovative and high-tech products”. In addition, there are six innovation platforms, including the ones established with Nanjing Normal University and BGI Genomics.

In 2022, the output value of bio-chemical products reached 3.98 billion yuan. And this year, a batch of companies, including Protgen and Tsingke, established their presence in Changzhou.

To grab window opportunities, the municipal government has set up a work group. Policy papers have been released to promote the high-quality development of synthetic biology, with concrete measures in place. The city is poised to become a powerhouse for this new sector.

Industry parks as a key for growth

Enterprises of synthetic biology can be seen in different parts of the city. In particular, three districts, including Xinbei, Jintan, and Wujin, host industry and innovation parks.

The Yangtze River Delta Synthetic Biology Industry Innovation Park, located in Xinbei District, already in operation, is a comprehensive, integrated, open and shared sci-tech innovation platform. Twenty key projects have been signed, with a total investment of 950 million yuan. Meanwhile, the Park has established a two-billion-yuan special fund for the synthetic biology industry and a 200-million-yuan park development fund.

The Jintan Synthetic Biology Industry Park, currently in construction, is led by the investment of BGI Genomics. The Park will set up incubators and start-up funds for bio-medicine, aiming to become a base with over 100 million yuan output value within ten years.

The West Taihu Lake Synthetic Biology Innovation Industry Park, unveiled last week, is located in Wujin District. A number of key projects have been signed to settle in the Park. An industry investment alliance has been jointly established with renowned financial institutes, including Shenzhen Capital Group and Green Pine Capital Partners, to support the development of key technologies.

Rapid industrial advancement

So far, the city has made substantial progress on this front.

Six platforms in synthetic biology have been established. The NNU-Changzhou Institute of Synthetic Biology Industry has forged partnership with Golden-Shell, the largest manufacturer of chitin and chitin derivatives in China, to carry out pilot-scale experiments of core technologies, which has led to production in small quantity.

With 109 local members recruited, the BGI Engineering Biology - Changdang Lake Research Institute has held three utility model patents, and participated in a national scientific research project. Two biology laboratories of Changzhou University have undertaken one project from the Ministry of Science and Technology, sixteen projects from the National Natural Science Foundation, and over 40 projects from different companies.

Companies also fare well. Patented products of Trautec, Changmao Biochemical Engineering, and Hequan Pharmaceuticals have reached commercialization. In September this year, Trautec received 2 million yuan in Series B financing. The kilogram-scale oligonucleotide platform of Hequan Pharmaceuticals has unique advantages in using next-generation synthesis technology. And Changmao Biochemical Engineering ranks third in the domestic market share for tetracarboxylic organic acids.


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