ARC Centre of Excellence in Synthetic Biology

Synthetic biology


28, Nov 2023

Seed grants: Biotextiles to biosensors

The Centre offers rounds of seed fund grants for early to mid career researchers. The idea is to encourage innovative research projects that are highly ambitious, have good gender balance and provide new directions for research and impact. Here are the results of the latest round.

Microbe-made materials

Creating new eco-friendly textile fibres and materials in engineered microbes. The team aims to use synbio methods to add novel light-responsive properties into fibre biosynthesis systems. This will enable rapid and precise control over manufacturing.

Lead: Nick Coleman: Team: Evan Gibbs, Michael Miller, Heema Vyas, Dr Joachim Larsen, Claudia Holt, Dr Ben Matthews.

Turning the tides on marine threat

Working with local Mallacoota artists and the Victorian Sea Urchin Divers’ Association, Centre researchers will explore how elements of sea urchin waste might be enhanced to create new materials and products. In doing so, they will develop a SynBio Hubs Framework – a set of processes and principles that towns anywhere can adopt to find place-based solutions to their own problems.

Lead: Artem Anyshchenko. Team: Luis Quijano, Joachim Larsen, Nicola Watts, Vidi Chandra, Sabine Amos, J-L Heylen, Mary O’Malley.

Future Dairy: Australia’s Cattle Imaginaries

This project will enquire how cattle farmers, industry processors, animal advocates, environmental organisations, social scientists, and synthetic biologists can work together to achieve desirable futures for animal agriculture and cellular protein industries in Australia. With a focus on synthetic dairy as the most likely and immediate driver for transformation, the project will examine what futures stakeholders anticipate and desire, what barriers exist, what factors shape development and decision-making and, finally, what ethical and philosophical frameworks they consider to be relevant.

Lead: Jerome Ramirez. Team: Jac Dalziell, Andrew McGregor, Jonathon Symons

In their elements

The lack of cost-effective methods to detect rare earth elements (REE) significantly hinders biotechnological advancements in REE sourcing, extraction and recovery. This project seeks to address this by leveraging the power of protein engineering to create rapid, cost-effective and highly sensitive biosensors for REE quantification.

Lead: Zhenglui Cui. Team: Denys Villa Gomez, Rosie Gillane, Luke Webster, Zhong Guo, Kirill Alexandrov

Biosensors for biomolecules

Dr Elena Eremeeva and her team will pioneer the Aptamer Discovery and Application Platform (ADAP) that merges nature’s ability to recognise molecules with technology to create hybrid protein-nucleic acid biosensors. This innovative approach holds the potential for advanced detection of diverse biomolecules, ranging from environmental contaminants to pharmaceuticals and disease biomarkers.

Lead: Elena Eremeeva Team: Prof Lawrence Lee, Brian Ee, Maria Micaela Fiorito, Micaela Belen Sequeira, Kirill Alexandrov

Improving chemical tolerance in microbial strains

Adjusting the levels of specific cell membrane proteins, known as importers, can boost a cell’s ability to block harmful chemicals from entering during biotechnological processes. Think of it as tinkering with switches to allow nutrients in while preventing toxic chemicals from hitching a ride. This improvement can lead to more efficient production of valuable substances. To test this theory, the team plans to create various versions of brewer’s yeast, each equipped with a ‘dimmer switch’ controlling the abundance of importers in the cell membrane.

Lead: Li Liping Team: David Romero-Suarez, Catherine Dawson, Ian Paulsen, Karl Hassan, Esteban Marcellin.