Booming field a multibillion-dollar opportunity

Wednesday, 01 September, 2021

Booming field a multibillion-dollar opportunity

A new report from CSIRO suggests Australia is well placed to develop a synthetic biology industry worth $27 billion a year, creating 44,000 new jobs by 2040.

Synthetic biology, which applies engineering, computer science and biology principles to other fields, is rapidly growing. According to ‘A National Synthetic Biology Roadmap: Identifying commercial and economic opportunities for Australia’, the two biggest areas to benefit 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.

“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,” Prof Vickers said.

“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.”

Greg Williams, 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.

“Australia must act now if it is to capitalise on its early research investments and enable the long-term success of this emerging ecosystem,” Williams said.

“To do that, Australia would need to place a greater focus on the translation and scale-up of synthetic biology into commercial opportunities for global markets.”

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