CSIRO invests $25 million in new program to bolster Australia’s biotechnology industry

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CSIRO has announced a four-year, $25 million investment in a new program that will combine engineering and biology to drive innovations within the biotechnology industry. 

The new program, Advanced Engineering Biology (AEB), is the latest of CSIRO’s Future Science Platforms (FSP) initiatives, which are aimed at developing breakthroughs in new and emerging areas of science. 

Dr Robert Speight, director of AEB FSP, said the program will integrate engineering and biology to develop solutions for broad-ranging issues from the environment and energy transition to food security and human health. 

“The applications of engineering biology are varied and range from improving plants to sequester carbon more effectively, to manufacturing sustainable alternatives to animal proteins, petroleum fuels, and harmful pesticides, and even engineering biosensors that can make on-the-spot medical diagnoses,” Speight said. 

AEB will focus on new biomanufacturing capabilities and developing technologies that underpin engineering biology to make it faster, more predictable, and more efficient. It will also spearhead comprehensive research on the public’s expectations, attitudes, and perceptions to help guide the responsible development of biotechnology. 

Research projects launched under Advanced Engineering Biology FSP over the next four years will also interface with other fields fast-advancing fields, such as machine learning and artificial intelligence 

“AI is transforming what we do, making the design of new biotechnologies faster and more predictable than ever before,” Speight said. “For example, it promises new ways of developing biosensors that mean we can now do in weeks what used to take years. The technology is rapidly progressing, and we need to stay at the leading edge of it.”

CSIRO Deputy Chief Scientist Dr Jill Freyne said Australia has the opportunity to cement its position as a world leader in the rapidly expanding biotechnology sector. 

“The Advanced Engineering Biology FSP is about unlocking the transformative potential of engineering biology to underpin transitions to new industries, enable circular economies, and realise vast benefits for society and the environment,” Freyne said.