Foundation Technologies

Development of synthetic biology parts and tools that can be applied in a wide range of application areas.

Application Domain Leader: Colin Scott

The Foundation Technologies Application Domain develops underpinning tools and technologies that are broadly applicable. The Domain recognises that some technologies are so broad-reaching that investment is warranted regardless of the focus of the other Application Domains – it is where enabling capabilities that will drive Australia’s synthetic biology capacity in the future are developed, and where the next CRISPR/Cas technology will emerge from. Foundation Technologies has three focal areas:

  • BioFoundry: An advanced robotic high-throughput DNA componentry assembly, cell line engineering, and analysis facility. We are developing this facility to be open to the Australian R&D community (academia and industry).
  • Parts and Tools: Development of synthetic biology parts and tools that can be applied in a wide range of application areas. We are also developing the organisational framework for a library of component parts (biobricks) that encode the new functionality that is desired in biological systems. An Australian biobricks parts library will provide a key resource for the country which will allow us to effectively exploit our unique biological and genetic heritage.
  • Organelles and (endo)symbionts: Developing organelle control devices to provide engineering tools targeting mitochondria and chloroplasts, the energy and carbon powerhouses of the eukaryotic cells, and understanding and exploiting (endo)symbiosis to deliver fundamental science and applied outcomes in our other three Application Domains.

Projects by outcome area

New and improved SynBio tools

  • Improving CRISPR-Cas9 using chromatin information
  • Directed evolution of the ion-channels of the bacterial flagellar motor
  • Developing orthogonal Cas/anti-Cas pairs as building blocks for genetic circuit design
  • Engineering Orthogonal Translation Machinery
  • Modular protein biosensors of secondary metabolites
  • Understanding the molecular basis of ligand selectivity and specificity in riboswitches.
  • Modular protein logic gates: a platform for the design of smart nanodevices
  • Optimising ROS/redox-sensitive, reversible bioswitches as tools for transient on-demand monitoring and control of Biosystems

Organelle control devices

  • Engineering synthetic pentatricopeptide repeat (PPR) proteins as on/off switches for chloroplast protein translation
  • Synthetic biology approaches to engineer mitochondrial genomes and transcriptomes for improved energy production and therapies

Understanding and exploiting (endo)symbiosis

  • Synthebiont: Travelling back in time to the origin of photosynthetic eukaryotes
  • Trojan Female Gene Drive: Population suppression with engineered symbionts and mitochondria
  • In vitro resynthesis of the lichen symbiosis as a useful system for synthetic biology