Entering new territory
Synthetic Biology (SynBio) is the application of engineering principles to biology.
It involves the design and construction of biological systems and devices, usually based on DNA-encoded componentry, and their application for useful purposes. Components include DNA, RNA, and proteins (commonly enzymes). These are used to build genetic circuits encoding cellular machinery, which may be applied either in vivo (inside cells) or ex vivo (in test tubes or other non-cellular environments).
The ability to design and fabricate biological systems has been enhanced over the past decade with significant advances in science and technologies in all of the fields involved in SynBio.
It is a highly interdisciplinary science, drawing on biology, engineering and computer science, as well as many other fields, and has potential applications in areas as diverse as manufacturing, human health, agriculture and protecting ecosystems.
In Australia, there are a number of research and development projects in the design or implementation phase across agricultural, industrial and environmental applications, however, we have been lacking a central resource to coordinate and foster research in the field.
A coordinated approach
SynBio is a rapidly expanding multi-billion dollar industry with significant potential for generating societal benefits and commercial opportunities. It will drive innovation in a large number of diverse industries going into the future. Because of this, Australia must develop a strong SynBio 'research ecosystem' or it risks losing competitiveness.
CSIRO is investing in the SynBio FSP to support research and delivery of solutions, the reinvention and creation of new industries and jobs for Australia, and the next crop of researchers.
SynBio's transformative nature brings with it technical and social risks. The SynBio FSP seeks to understand and monitor these risks and to maintain a dialogue with the public about progress in the field. The FSP is built on a philosophy of responsible development of SynBio technology, striving for ethical and socially acceptable outcomes.
CSIRO is uniquely placed to provide national leadership to catalyse innovation and develop capability to advance Australia's SynBio capacity and competitiveness in a responsible way.
SynBio FSP Mission
Our mission is to collaboratively develop capacity in SynBio within CSIRO and across Australia through:
- building the foundational capabilities to advance SynBio research
- driving national coordination by making these capabilities widely available to the broad research community, governments and industry
- strengthening partnerships, collaborations and connections across the innovation sector to responsibly develop novel products and applications.
The SynBio FSP will work with its partner organisations, including Synthetic Biology Australasia, to help build a collaborative Australia-wide community of practice in SynBio R&D.
Our Application Domains
SynBio FSP research is represented by six distinct research areas:
- Foundation Technologies: build tools, technologies and infrastructure required to deliver SynBio solutions.
- Industrial Biotechnology: deliver substantial and disruptive technologies to our chemical and fibre industries.
- Environment and Biocontrol: revolutionise our capacity to manage and remediate our environment.
- Health and Medicine: advance medical breakthroughs and deliver new health innovations for humans and animals.
- Maximising Impact: examine the social, ethical and legal frameworks required to deliver SynBio solutions.
- Agriculture and Food: re-imagine the future of agriculture by accelerating the design of next-gen yeast and crop production platforms.
The CSIRO BioFoundry is a state-of-the-art high-throughput bioengineering facility that lets scientists rapidly design, build and test new biotechnologies at a scale not possible before now. It can be used to quickly and reliably prototype new biotechnologies or answer complex biological questions. It can do this as it's enabled by technological advancement in robotics, data handling, sensors and automation.
The facility uses hardware and software solutions to significantly increase the rate of bioengineering discovery. CSIRO's BioFoundry is based at the Ecosciences Precinct at Dutton Park and we are open for business. We welcome academia, industry, Australian and international clients.