• Food and agriculture account for the largest share of Australian-founded synthetic biology start-ups, with the industry worth up to $30 billion dollars a year, a new report by CSIRO and Main Sequence Ventures found.
    Food and agriculture account for the largest share of Australian-founded synthetic biology start-ups, with the industry worth up to $30 billion dollars a year, a new report by CSIRO and Main Sequence Ventures found.
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While food and agriculture have accounted for the largest share of Australian-founded synthetic biology start-ups to date, the industry is worth up to $30 billion dollars a year, a new report by CSIRO and Main Sequence Ventures found.

The Synthetic Biology National Progress Report is a follow-up to the National Synthetic Biology Roadmap, which was published in 2021, and charts the country’s progress against the roadmap’s 10 recommendations.   

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, CSIRO said.

Roadmap projections that the field could generate $27 billion a year and 44,000 new jobs by 2040, has been updated to $30 billion and more than 50,000 new jobs by 2040. To date, food and agricultural applications account for forty-five per cent of start-ups and $290 million in capital investments.

Main Sequence Ventures partner, Gabrielle Munzer, said venture capital investment into cutting edge synthetic biology applications could 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,” Munzer said.

The progress report said Australian synthetic biology start-ups received over $363 million in capital investments over the past three years.

CSIRO Health and Biosecurity Futures lead, Greg Williams, said Australia continued to foster a strong synthetic biology R&D ecosystem, with $44.5 million 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,” 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 report found progress to date:

New projections mark an increase from 2021 predictions: from $27 billion annual revenue to $30 billion, 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; and

sustained and coordinated investments in synthetic biology will be critical to accelerate the commercial success of Australia’s bioeconomy.

Munzer said Main Sequence, which was founded by CSIRO in 2017 to reduce the gap between research and commercialisation, had been investing in the companies since 2021.  

“We’re 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,” she aid.

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.

“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,” Munzer said.

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