Such an outcome would increase rural employment and investment, provide new income streams for farmers and improve Australia’s balance of trade.
Integral to our centre is a deep understanding of the cultural, social, ethical, legal and commercial dimensions of synthetic biology. Our science is developed within this wider societal and economic context.
Our research spans three themes with three enabling capabilities.
Currently all commercial synthetic biology processes use a single designer organism to produce the desired product. But there are many things a single organism can’t do because of incompatible biochemical reactions. Our novel designer microbial communities will work as a team but with each microbe optimised for a specific task. This will enable them to turn sustainable agricultural biomass into industrial biochemicals. In a world first, we will also engineer protein switches that can convert electronic and chemical signals, allowing us to use devices such as phones to control and monitor our synthetic microbes.
Just as the body has individual organs, every cell has organelles that perform a specific function. We will be moving inside of cells to turn these organelles into tiny reaction vessels for making very high-value compounds. In another world first, we will re-engineer mitochondria, the energy factory of the cell, for the production of pharmaceuticals.
This is not just a new form of synthetic biology. It’s a new word that we’ve coined to describe the new-to-nature enzymes and metabolic pathways we’ll be developing that eventually can replace industrial chemicals processes with their greener and more sustainable alternatives.
Work includes using DNA origami scaffolds to create molecular factories that can perform chemical transformations not occurring in nature.
Systems bioengineering describes the linking of three disciplines – synthetic biology, systems biology and evolutionary engineering – with traditional metabolic engineering. The aim is to create high-performing cell factories that may produce a multitude of sustainable products. One key goal is to advance one carbon fermentation for the conversion of waste streams, including CO2 into sustainable fuels, foods and chemicals, to realise a circular economy.
How will a syn-bio industry develop in Australia and how will existing industries capitalise on this science to their competitive advantage? What are the barriers to uptake of the technology?
We are a world-leading research centre whose goal is to take us beyond what any single, existing microbe on earth can do.