Synthetic biology is the application of engineering principles and genetic technologies to biological engineering. It’s estimated the global synthetic biology-enabled market could grow to A$700 billion by 2040.
Australia’s increasing research base and attractive business environment for international partnerships positions us to play a leading role in servicing the growing Asia-Pacific market for synthetic biology-enabled products, which is expected to reach A$3.1 billion by 2024.
Australia has invested at least A$80 million in developing synthetic biology research capabilities in recent years. By 2040, synthetic biology could unlock up to A$27 billion in annual revenue and 44,000 new jobs for Australia.
The largest emerging markets for synthetic biology applications are tipped to be food and agriculture and health and medicine. Uses for synthetic biology in food and agriculture include biomanufacturing sustainable alternatives to animal proteins and agricultural chemicals, biosensors for biosecurity and surveillance of agricultural conditions and engineered crops and biological treatments for increased resilience and better nutritional content. In health and medicine, engineered biosensors can be used for diagnostic applications including rapid point-of-care tests and engineered cell-based therapies and vaccines are being developed.
Further boosting Australia’s synthetic biology ecosystem could also help establish cost-effective domestic manufacturing capabilities to boost supply chain resilience and protect the nation from biological threats, including emerging infectious diseases and bioterrorism.
Bringing together universities, start-ups, large businesses, government and industry bodies, the ARC Centre of Excellence in Synthetic Biology is pioneering new solutions to global agricultural, food production, manufacturing, healthcare and environmental challenges.
CSIRO has deep capacity, especially through its Synthetic Biology Future Science Platform. Australia has invested A$8.3 million to create a new CSIRO BioFoundry, a state-of-the-art facility providing bioengineering capability to the R&D community.
Ginkgo Bioworks, the world’s largest synthetic biology company, recently opened its Australian and New Zealand hub in Melbourne, making its cell engineering platform available to the local biotech sector.
- In the fight against COVID-19, CSIRO is working with the research sector and industry using lab-grown ‘lungs’ to study respiratory viruses and potentially fast-track treatments for human trials.
- CSIRO developed a world-first commercial vaccine that provides full immunity against the deadly Hendra virus.
- A cross-Tasman collaboration involving CSIRO, the University of Otago and the University of Auckland program has created a genomic breakthrough in invasive species management.
- CSIRO is using synthetic biology to fight against dengue fever through genetically engineering mosquitoes.