CSIRO building team of Synthetic Biology science stars

February 8th, 2017

A $3 million program to recruit outstanding national and international early-career scientists as future leaders to expand Australia’s research capacity in Synthetic Biology has been launched.

Applications are now open for CSIRO’s Synthetic Biology Future Science Fellowships – the first step in building a socially responsible future in Australia for one of the fastest growing areas of science.

The Fellowships are an initiative of the Synthetic Biology Future Science Platform (SynBio FSP) announced last year as one of six ‘blue sky’ research concentrations led by CSIRO that have the potential to help reinvent and create new industries for Australia.

“CSIRO’s Synthetic Biology FSP aims to deliver a bold new vision and strategy for responsible development of synthetic biology,” said Dr Claudia Vickers, the recently appointed Leader of the new SynBio FSP.

“Our mission is to develop capacity in synthetic biology within CSIRO and across Australia, in a collaborative and transparent manner.”

Dr Vickers also heads a group at the University of Queensland focused on converting agricultural biomass to industrially useful biochemicals. She has received numerous awards for her ground-breaking work and already has played an important role in developing collaborative networks across Australia and New Zealand, including as founding President of Synthetic Biology Australasia (SBA).

Dr Vickers said the Fellowships were an opportunity to build Australia’s global competitiveness in advanced industries.

“I expect these fellowships to attract among the best post-docs in Australia as well as bring in overseas skills and that they will provide the foundation for a collaborative community of practice in synthetic biology across Australia,” she said.

SynBio is the design and construction of biological parts, devices, and organisms, involving modelling, writing and printing DNA code for the design and fabrication of new biological parts, devices, systems, and machines, as well as the re-design of existing, natural biological systems.

This emerging field has potential applications in areas as diverse as manufacturing, human health, agriculture and protecting ecosystems.

Domains that collaborate in the area include biotechnology, evolutionary biology, molecular biology, systems biology, physics, chemistry, computer engineering and informatics, electrical engineering, and genetic engineering, among others.

Dr Vickers said that because of SynBio’s transformative nature, Australia must develop a strong SynBio ‘Research Ecosystem’ or it will lose competitiveness in almost every industry, including traditional areas such as agriculture. Responsible development and public engagement would be a critical element in establishing the social licence to operate in this area of breakthrough science.

“The FSP will work closely with domain specific researchers and technologists to design, fabricate, and construct the novel, fit-for-purpose biological assemblies and machines that will deliver outcomes and impacts for the nation,” she said.

The research program is focussed around three priority Application Domains:

  • Environment and Biocontrol
  • Chemicals and Fibres
  • Endosymbionts and Organelles

The Fellowships are seeking scientists with novel applications who can bring third-party national or international partners.

Fellowship applications close on 27 March 2017. Information on the Fellowships and the application process are available at: https://research.csiro.au/synthetic-biology-fsp/synbio-fellowships/