4 September 2018

A $4.5 million initiative to boost Australia’s synthetic biology capabilities will be built by The University of Queensland and CSIRO, helping drive advances in areas such as manufacturing, industrial biotechnology, environmental remediation, biosecurity, agriculture and healthcare research.

UQ Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Høj and CSIRO Executive Director for Environment, Energy and Resources Dr Peter Mayfield announced the venture today (4 September) at Customs House, Brisbane.

The CSIRO - UQ Synthetic Biology Initiative involves a close collaboration between the CSIRO Synthetic Biology Future Science Platform (SynBioFSP) and UQ’s Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN).

AIBN Director Professor Alan Rowan said the initiative included a collaborative research program, based at AIBN.

“Building on current capabilities, the alliance will recruit senior synthetic biologists and train a new cohort of synthetic biologists with a focus on industrial bioengineering,” he said.

“Our joint vision is to help create a sustainable, export-oriented biotechnology and bioproducts sector, attracting significant national and international investment, and creating regional, high-value and knowledge-intensive jobs.

“AIBN is delighted to be partnering with SynBioFSP.

“Our institute is dedicated to developing new technologies for the benefit of society, and being at the forefront of synthetic biology and industrial biotechnology will enable us to make critical advances needed to meet that goal.”

 Professor Rowan said the project formed part of a larger AIBN research Australian Industrialised Biotechnology Alliance initiative, which hd secured a total investment of $20 million.

The CSIRO’s Dr Mayfield said synthetic biology was set to drive innovation in diverse industries.

“Synthetic biology is a rapidly expanding multi-billion dollar industry with significant potential to generate societal benefits and commercial opportunities for Australia,” he said.

The CSIRO’s SynBioFSP is a $40 million research and development program with 60 collaborative research projects and more than 40 national and international partner organisations.

The UQ-CSIRO initiative was announced at the launch of the Australian Council of Learned Academies road-mapping report into synthetic biology in Australia.

Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr Alan Finkel AO, commissioned the report on behalf of the Commonwealth Science Council to examine the opportunities and challenges that synthetic biology will present Australia in the coming decade.

“Building consumer trust in the safe development of these technologies is vital,” Dr Finkel said.

“Our high-performing university research sector and our national science flagship, the CSIRO, both bring their reputations for excellence in ethics to that task.”

Media: Fiona McMillan, f.mcmillan@uq.edu.au, 3346 3962.