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Supporting the Development of Biotech Australia

Synthetic biology is a rapidly growing field that applies engineering principles and genetic technologies to biology, drawing on biology, engineering, and computer science, as well as many other fields.

According to the new report, A National Synthetic Biology Roadmap: Identifying commercial and economic opportunities for Australia, the two biggest areas to benefit from synthetic biology are the food and agriculture (up to $19 billion) and health and medicine sectors (up to $7 billion). Australia has invested at least $80 million in developing synthetic biology research capabilities in recent years.

CSIRO is focused on developing capacity in synthetic biology including through a new BioFoundry facility in Queensland which provides a bioengineering capability to the research and development community to rapidly design, build and test new biotechnologies.

Professor Claudia Vickers, Synthetic Biology Director at CSIRO said the scientific impact was encouraging, and with sustained investment, can deliver increased impact and economic benefit. She noted that synthetic biology can help overcome a range of global challenges, particularly in agriculture and health. It can also enable Australia to transform its economy by creating new, more sustainable industries and generating jobs. Bringing technology, the research community and other stakeholders together to enable start-ups, private investment and growth of market share will be essential to achieve the vision outlined in the Roadmap.

The Associate Director CSIRO Futures and lead author of the report said Australia needs to act quickly to secure a key role in this emerging global capability. He said that Australia must act now if it is to capitalise on its early research investments and enable the long-term success of this emerging ecosystem. To do this, Australia will need to place a greater focus on the translation and scale-up of synthetic biology into commercial opportunities for global markets.

About the roadmap 

The Roadmap was developed with input from 140 stakeholders from over 60 organisations to identify priority actions that can help set the foundations for a valuable and impactful synthetic biology ecosystem, including:

  • Support research translation and seed new businesses through targeted investments and bio incubator programs
  • Develop shared infrastructure to enable the development and demonstration of synthetic biology applications
  • Attract international businesses and talent to build critical mass and enhance international collaboration
  • Strengthen foundational ecosystem enablers including leadership, governance, skills, and collaboration.

This report builds on previous efforts including the detailed horizon scanning report, Synthetic Biology in Australia, produced by the Australian Council of Learned Academies (ACOLA) in 2018.

The global synthetic biology market size is projected to reach US$30.7 billion by 2026 from US$9.5 billion in 2021, at a CAGR of 26.5% during the forecast period. Factors such as a wide range of applications of synthetic biology, the rising R&D funding and growing initiatives in synthetic biology, declining cost of DNA sequencing and synthesizing, and increasing investments in the market are propelling the growth of this market. However, biosafety, biosecurity, and ethical concerns related to synthetic biology would hamper the growth of this market.

Many established pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical companies, along with players of the synthetic biology market, have stepped forward to contribute to worldwide research efforts by providing synthetic biology for developing test kits, treatments, and vaccines to target the infection caused by the coronavirus. Synthetic biology is highlighted as one of the emerging technologies in a report from the European Parliament. It can fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

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