A bit about CSIRO's Future Science Platform and synthetic biology.

The Future Science Platform

CSIRO’s Future Science Platforms (FSPs) are an investment in science that underpins innovation and that has the potential to help reinvent and create new industries for Australia. FSPs will see us grow the capability of a new generation of researchers and attract the best students and experts to work with us on future science in Australia. They are a multi-year, multi-disciplinary investment in our collective future, bringing CSIRO and our partners together to work on the big ideas.

CSIRO has invested $13 million in the Synthetic Biology Future Science Platform (SynBio FSP). SynBio is a rapidly expanding multi-billion dollar industry with significant potential for generating societal benefits and commercial opportunities; it will drive innovation in a large number of diverse industries going into the future. Because of this, Australia must develop a strong SynBio ‘research ecosystem’ or it risks losing competitiveness.

SynBio’s transformative nature brings with it technical and social risks; the SynBio FSP seeks to understand and monitor these risks and to maintain a dialogue with the public about progress in the field. The SynBio FSP is built on a philosophy of responsible development of SynBio technology, striving for ethical and socially acceptable outcomes.

Our mission is to collaboratively develop capacity in SynBio within CSIRO and across Australia through the following aims:

  1. Build the foundational capabilities to advance SynBio research
  2. Drive national coordination by making these foundational capabilities widely available to the broad research community, governments, and industry
  3. Build strong partnerships, collaborations, and connections across the innovation sector to develop novel products and applications responsibly.

CSIRO is uniquely placed to provide national leadership to coherently catalyse innovation, develop capability, and avoid fragmentation to advance Australia’s SynBio capacity and competitiveness in a responsible way. The SynBio FSP will work with its partner organisations, including Synthetic Biology Australasia, to help build a collaborative Australia-wide community of practice in SynBio.

What is Synthetic Biology?

Synthetic biology is essentially the application of engineering principles to biology. It involves the design and construction of biological systems and devices, as well as the re-design of existing, natural biological systems, usually based on DNA-encoded componentry, and their application for useful purposes. Components include DNA, RNA, and proteins (commonly enzymes); these are used to build genetic circuits encoding cellular machinery, which may be applied either in vivo (inside cells) or ex vivo (in test tubes or other non-cellular environments).

It is a highly interdisciplinary science, drawing on biology, engineering, and computer science, as well as many other fields, and has potential applications in areas as diverse as manufacturing, human health, agriculture and protecting ecosystems.

Working definition of ‘synthetic biology’: The design and construction of DNA-encoded parts, devices, machines, and organisms; and their application for useful purposes.