In the summer of 2015, Mart Loog, Professor in Molecular Systems Biology at the University of Tartu, received a prestigious grant from the European Research Area (ERA). The ERA Chair project SynBioTEC originates from the EU’s research and innovation funding program Horizon 2020, was given to establish a centre for synthetic biology at the University of Tartu. The funding will be used to attract a team of excellent academics with a background in synthetic biology. In January 2016, Dr Petri-Jaan Lahtvee was appointed as an ERA Chair in Synthetic Biology.

This first Horizon 2020 call for ERA Chairs was launched on the 11th of December, 2013 with a budget of €33.6 million, following a pilot call under the 7th research framework programme (IP/14/125).

The aim of the ERA Chair grant is to enable institutions to attract top academics so that they can compete with centres of excellence elsewhere in the European Research Area (ERA). Currently, we are building a team to address the main challenges in industrial biotechnology. By applying tools from synthetic biology and metabolic engineering we aim to create a line of de novo strains designed to work as a cell factory platform for the sustainable production of biochemicals. Initially, the group will focus on developing strains to produce biochemicals and pharmaceuticals. The Center will work to invigorate the bio-industry in Estonia and modernize the Estonian chemical industry, which is attempting to transform away from oil shale-based chemical production towards the production of sustainable bio-chemicals.