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Why synthetic biology?

Synthetic biology is a transformative and interdisciplinary field of science. It applies engineering workflows and sophisticated genetic technologies to rapidly design and build novel biological solutions.

This Roadmap provides a commercially focused and strategic view of how synthetic biology could underpin a thriving Australian bioeconomy.

These solutions can underpin new products and manufacturing approaches across a range of industries, from novel medical products to the sustainable production of food, energy, medicines, chemicals, and materials.

They can also enable carbon emissions reduction and sequestration across these industries, accelerate the decarbonisation of the global economy, and create new jobs.

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Positioning Australia for a $30 billion opportunity

A prominent domestic opportunity to develop a national synthetic biology capability exists. With appropriate support and investment, this capability could underpin up to $30 billion in annual revenue across impacted sectors and create over 50,000 new jobs by 2040.

The largest emerging markets for synthetic biology applications are expected to be food and agriculture, followed by health and medicine industries.

Developing Australia's national synthetic biology ecosystem could also help to:

  • identify solutions to uniquely Australian agricultural and environmental challenges
  • establish cost-effective domestic manufacturing capabilities to enhance supply chain resilience
  • protect the nation from biological threats such as emerging infectious diseases or bioterrorism.

Capturing the full opportunity will require synthetic biology to be a critical national capability that underpins a thriving Australian bioeconomy. This will require maintaining investments in synthetic biology research while increasing support for the ecosystem's most critical challenge: industrial translation and scale-up.

[Image appears of Professor Claudia Vickers talking to the camera and text appears: Professor Claudia Vickers, Director Synthetic Biology Future Science Platform, CSIRO]

Professor Claudia Vickers: Synthetic Biology is basically recoding life using DNA.

[Image changes to show a split circle and images of different CSIRO activities flash through in either half of the circle and then the circle morphs into the CSIRO logo on a white screen]

[Images move through to show Dr Cathy Foley talking to the camera, a close view of a plastic tray, a researcher placing the tray into a machine, and a machine filling a tray of test tubes, and text appears: Dr Cathy Foley, Australia’s Chief Scientist]

Dr Cathy Foley: It will provide us a way to rapidly develop engineered biological components that can be used for a whole range of new applications.

[Image changes to show Dr Kym Baker talking to the camera and text appears: Dr Kym Baker, General Manager, Patheon Biologics]

Dr Kym Baker: That allows us to replace traditional techniques with more environmentally friendly future proof processes.

[Images move through of a rear view of a researcher walking in a lab, the researcher looking at a specimen in a petri dish, and Claudia talking to the camera, and text appears: $27 billion in annual revenue by 2040]

Professor Claudia Vickers: By 2040 Synthetic Biology could deliver a $27 billion industry for Australia and it’s an opportunity we can’t afford to miss out on.

[Image changes to show Mr Phil Morle talking to the camera, and text appears: Mr Phil Morle, Main Sequence Ventures]

Mr Phil Morle: This is Australia’s opportunity to lead a series of new industries which will be powered by what’s possible with Synthetic Biology.

[Image changes to show a view looking down on cows grazing in a paddock, and text appears: Synthetic Biology can enable new food and agriculture products]

Synthetic Biology can enable new food and agriculture products.

[New text appears: Nutritionally rich new crops, Chemical free pesticides]

For example, nutritionally rich new crops, or pesticides without the chemicals.

[Image changes to show Kym talking to the camera, and text appears on the left: Insulin, mRNA vaccines, Therapeutic proteins, Cellular immunotherapies, Bioplastics]

Dr Kym Baker: Insulin, Covid-19 vaccines, therapeutic proteins, cancer therapies, plant-based plastics.

[Images move through to show Cathy talking to the camera, a close view of a conical flask of green liquid, a researcher looking up, and then the researcher holding the flask while another male looks on]

Dr Cathy Foley: I’m really excited about seeing Synthetic Biology come out of the lab and into the hands of all of us.

[Image changes to show Claudia talking to the camera and an inset brochure of the National Synthetic Biology Roadmap and text appears on the left: Synthetic Biology Roadmap]

Professor Claudia Vickers: CSIRO has delivered a Synthetic Biology Roadmap that identifies the commercial and economic opportunities for Synthetic Biology for the nation.

[Image changes to show a network of pinpoints surrounding a part of the world globe and the sun can be seen shining in the background, and text appears: With this roadmap Australia can become a global market leader]

With this Roadmap Australia can become a market leader globally in a thriving bioeconomy.

[New text appears: Read the roadmap to find out more]

[Music plays and the image changes to show the CSIRO logo and text on a white screen: CSIRO, Australia’s National Science Agency]

Synthetic Biology will provide us a way to rapidly develop engineered biological components that can be used for a whole range of new applications.

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The 2024 Progress Report

Since the release of the Roadmap in 2021, Australia has made several investments into further developing the nation's synthetic biology capabilities. This Progress Report highlights the evolution of Australia's synthetic biology ecosystem from 2021 to 2023, discussing major developments in research and industry, and updating the Roadmap's 2040 national market sizing analysis.

This report was authored by CSIRO Futures, with support from CSIRO’s Advanced Engineering Biology Futures Science Platform and Main Sequence Ventures.

Catch up on the Synthetic Biology in Australia webcast hosted by CSIRO Futures and Main Sequence Ventures to gain an in-depth understanding of the report's key findings.

The 2021 Roadmap

The National Synthetic Biology Roadmap report identified the value that synthetic biology could unlock for Australia and discusses how Australia can accelerate the demonstration, scaling, and commercial success of its applications.

The Roadmap sought to raise awareness of existing national capabilities, outline strategic growth opportunities, and provide recommendations for pursuing them. The Roadmap noted that synthetic biology would be critical to a thriving Australian bioeconomy, but greater national coordination was needed to support industrial translation, scaling, and the commercial success of its applications.

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