CSIRO invests $25 million to drive biotech innovation

Female scientists in lab wear at work in CSIRO's state-of-the-art BioFoundry
Scientists at work in CSIRO's state-of-the-art BioFoundry

Australia’s national science agency CSIRO has invested $25 million up to 2027 in a new program that will harness the building blocks of life to solve intractable problems.

Advanced Engineering Biology (AEB) is the latest of CSIRO’s Future Science Platforms (FSP) program, which are aimed at discovering future breakthroughs in new and emerging areas of science.

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Dr Robert Speight, director of CSIRO’s AEB FSP, said the program would integrate engineering and biology to develop solutions for broad-ranging issues from the environment and energy transition to food security and human health.

“We’re only just scratching the surface of engineering biology’s potential,” Dr Speight said.

“The field is moving fast, and there’s still a lot left to discover about the biological building blocks of life—how they work, and how we could use them.

“The applications of engineering biology are varied and range from improving plants to sequester carbon more effectively, to manufacturing sustainable alternatives to animal proteins, petroleum fuels, and harmful pesticides, and even engineering biosensors that can make on-the-spot medical diagnoses.”

The program will focus on new biomanufacturing capabilities, as well as developing the very technologies that underpin engineering biology, to make it faster, more predictable, and higher performing.

It will also conduct detailed research on the public’s expectations, attitudes, and perceptions to help guide the responsible development of biotechnology.

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The program builds on CSIRO’s research which helped to grow a community of engineering biology experts across Australia, through such projects as the production of animal-free dairy.

The market for bio-based chemicals—such as biofuels, bioplastics, bio-based solvents, acids, lubricants, and alcohols—is expected to be worth roughly $240 billion by 2030.

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