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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.

Synthetic biology-enabled solutions have applications in sectors like health, agriculture, biosecurity and the environment and could help us solve some of Australia’s greatest challenges.

They have the potential to be globally transformative and create a $700 billion global opportunity by 2040.

This National Synthetic Biology Roadmap report, released in August 2021, identifies the value that synthetic biology could unlock for Australia and discusses how Australia can accelerate the demonstration, scaling, and commercial success of its applications.

Read the report PDF (4 MB)

Positioning Australia for a $27 billion opportunity

Under a high growth, high market share scenario, synthetic biology could unlock up to $27 billion in annual revenue and 44,000 new jobs for Australia 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.

Infographic that describes the synthetic biology opportunities for Australia

Food and agriculture

$19.2 billion | 31,200 jobs

Biomanufacturing sustainable alternatives to animal proteins and agricultural chemicals.

Engineered biosensors for biosecurity and surveillance of agricultural conditions.

Engineered crops and biological treatments for increased resilience and improved nutritional content.

Health and medicine

$7.2 billion | 11,700 jobs

Biomanufacturing pharmaceutical ingredients and precursors that are traditionally plantderived or chemically synthesised.

Engineered biosensors for diagnostic applications including rapid pointofcare tests.

Engineered cell-based therapies and vaccines.


$0.7 billion | 1,100 jobs

Biological solutions for waste management, recycling and mineral processing.

Biomanufacturing more sustainable industrial chemicals, materials, and fuels.

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.

Demonstrating synthetic biology’s commercial feasibility by supporting research translation activities within the Australian landscape will help to raise broader industry awareness, build critical mass, and provide learnings that can be leveraged across other emerging applications. These efforts will need to be balanced with the need to invest in strategic research and development in longer-term opportunities.

[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]

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Read the report

Read the report to discover the opportunities that synthetic biology can unlock for Australia:

Find out more

Want to learn more about how synthetic biology can unlock these opportunities? Talk to CSIRO Futures about how we can help.

The CSIRO BioFoundry is a state-of-the-art facility providing bioengineering capability to the R&D community. We collaborate with industry and academia looking for solutions to rapidly innovate the development of bio-based products.

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