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27 February 2024 News Release

Synthetic biology could underpin an industry worth up to $30 billion per year and create over 50,000 new jobs by 2040, according to a new report by Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, and Main Sequence Ventures. 

Synthetic biology, or engineering biology, is a transformative and interdisciplinary field of science that applies engineering workflows and sophisticated genetic technologies to rapidly design and create new solutions from the building blocks of life.

The Synthetic Biology National Progress Report is an update to the 2021 National Synthetic Biology Roadmap – which originally found the field would deliver an annual revenue of $27 billion and 44,000 jobs by 2040.

New projections have seen this figure increase to $30 billion and 50,000 new jobs, and the report found Australian synthetic biology start-ups received over $363 million in capital investments over the past three years.

Agriculture and food applications represent the largest share of both Australian-founded synthetic biology start-ups (over 45 per cent) and capital investments raised ($290 million).

According to CSIRO’s Health and Biosecurity Futures lead, Greg Williams, Australia has continued to foster a strong synthetic biology research and development ecosystem, with $44.5m in research grants distributed over the last three years.

“Federal and State governments have bolstered outcomes by establishing support programs to translate research into commercial activity, seed new businesses, and develop shared infrastructure,” Mr Williams said.

“Our analysis shows that Australia has continued to foster a strong synthetic biology research and development ecosystem.

“However, more still needs to be done to strengthen the ecosystem through international collaboration and domestic leadership, governance and skills,” he said.

The new report charts Australia’s progress against ten recommendations put forward in the National Synthetic Biology Roadmap.

The progress so far:

  • New projections mark an increase from 2021 predictions: from $27B annual revenue to $30B, and from 44,000 jobs to 50,000 jobs by 2040.
  • CSIRO and Main Sequence Ventures identified strong progress against goals relating to research commercialisation and investing in infrastructure.
  • Less activity was identified for attracting international collaboration and talent, and strengthening leadership, governance, and skills to enhance national coordination.
  • Sustained and coordinated investments in synthetic biology will be critical to accelerate the commercial success of Australia’s bioeconomy.

Gabrielle Munzer, Partner at Main Sequence Ventures, said that venture capital investment into cutting edge synthetic biology applications promises to deliver transformative benefits across a range of sectors.

“Synthetic biology has incredible potential to positively impact many global challenges, from food production to environmental sustainability,” Ms Munzer said.

“Main Sequence is invested in helping build the synbio ecosystem to responsibly drive this field forward. Since 2021, we have supported over a dozen pioneering companies that are engineering biology to tackle pressing needs like food scarcity, agriculture, and waste remediation.

“Together, these companies have raised over $100 million in funding and created 135 jobs to date.

“This is only the beginning and synbio remains a largely untapped opportunity. With the right partnerships across industry, government and academia, we can accelerate the development of synbio products and solutions to provide social, environmental; and economic benefits.”

The Progress Report considers an aspirational high growth, high market share scenario, informed by desktop research using publicly available information. It highlights development in the local market through case studies, presenting a snapshot of the synthetic biology ecosystem in Australia.

CSIRO is driving advancements in synthetic and engineering biology for Australia. Through its Advanced Engineering Biology Future Science Platform it is developing new capabilities to rapidly design, build, and test novel biotechnologies.

The national science agency’s work aims to underpin transformative innovations across a range of sectors including food and agriculture, health and medicine, biosecurity, and sustainability.

Read the report to explore the progress that Australia has achieved, and the ongoing opportunities and value that synthetic biology can unlock for the economy


Synthetic biology creates solutions from the building blocks of life.

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