Bio-based materials symposium attracts global online audience
These were the key questions on the minds of people attending the Synthetic Biology for production of bio‐based materials symposium on 15 and 16 June 2021. The online symposium was coordinated by the CSIRO Synthetic Biology Future Science Platform with support from the Department of Defence, Defence Science and Technology Group (DSTG).
Benefits from bio-based materials
Bio-based materials are any materials (for example, fibres or polymers) that are derived from biological resources, such as plants animals and micro-organisms or parts of them for example proteins. Materials can be engineered to:
- have super strength
- offer beneficial biological activity for example antibacterial, anticancerous, antiviral, antifungal properties
- biodegrade so as to not pollute the environment
- be more cost‑effective and less wasteful to produce than existing manufacturing processes.
This topic has global interest, with more than 220 people registering from Australia, and countries including Singapore, US, Indonesia, Canada, Sweden, India, Ecuador. Attendees included people from universities, industry, investment companies, government agencies, CSIRO and DSTG.
The key aims for the symposium were to:
- share and discuss challenges and opportunities, including what strategically important materials to focus on
- understand the pros and cons of commercial production of bio-based materials
- deepen the interdisciplinary capabilities to seek out Australia’s competitive advantage
- solidify a community of practice to work on plans and ‘roadmaps’ for Australia into the future.
New, improved ways of making materials
Speakers talked about making materials such as collagen, elastin and silk with synthetic biology and other ways of making materials using DNA templates or using virus-like particles and nanoparticles.
“In addition to covering the current state of the technology, attendees were also prompted to think about future advances and how we design and construct materials with end users in mind,” said Dr Charlotte Williams, Principal Research Scientist and Industrial Biotechnology Application Domain Leader within CSIRO’s Synthetic Biology Future Science Platform.
“Unpacking the social implications of this technology is crucial. So, we acknowledge that all stakeholders, and every person impacted by the technology, needs to be engaged early on. We also need to be clear on technical definitions and specifications plus resolve issues around scaling up production and ensuring market demand and financial viability,” she said.
What is happening next?
The next steps for the team at the Synthetic Biology Future Science Platform include to:
- establish Communities of Practice and coordinate meeting/planning steps
- create a roadmap with examples that have clear path to industry/end-users
- establish the best methods to fund and bring in capability and infrastructure.
We’d like to acknowledge the funders of this symposium: CSIRO Research Office, Australian Government Department of Defence, Defence Science and Technology Group, Synthetic Biology Future Science Platform and CSIRO Manufacturing.
Author: Claire Harris