CSIRO and Main Sequence expect synthetic biology to become a $30 billion industry by 2040

CSIRO and Main Sequence expect synthetic biology to become a $30 billion industry by 2040

The economic value of synthetic biology to Australia has increased by 11 per cent to $30 billion since 2021, according to a new report by CSIRO, underpinning its venture capital arm Main Sequence Ventures’ investments in the field in recent years.

The Synthetic Biology National Progress Report released today by the CSIRO updates a 2021 report titled the National Synthetic Biology Roadmap which forecast the sector would deliver annual revenue of $27 billion and support 44,000 jobs nationally by 2040.

The government-owned scientific research organisation says its latest projections have lifted this figure to $30 billion in revenue and 50,000 new jobs, thanks to Australian synthetic biology start-ups receiving more than $363 million in capital investments over the past three years.

Synthetic biology, or engineering biology, is described by the CSIRO as an interdisciplinary field of science that applies engineering workflows and sophisticated genetic technologies to rapidly design and create new solutions from the building blocks of life.

Agriculture and food applications account for almost half of Australian-founded synthetic biology start-ups over the past three years while they also account for the lion’s share of capital raised at $290 million.

Research grants for the synthetic biology sector since 2021 have totalled an additional $44.5 million.

“Federal and state governments have bolstered outcomes by establishing support programs to translate research into commercial activity, seed new businesses, and develop shared infrastructure,” says CSIRO’s Health and Biosecurity Futures lead Greg Williams.

“Our analysis shows that Australia has continued to foster a strong synthetic biology research and development ecosystem.

“However, more still needs to be done to strengthen the ecosystem through international collaboration and domestic leadership, governance and skills.”

Among the key findings of the latest update is that sustained and coordinated investments in synthetic biology will be ‘critical to accelerate the commercial success of Australia’s bioeconomy’.

The report also found less activity over the past three years in attracting international collaboration and talent amidst a strengthening of leadership, governance and skills to enhance national coordination.

Among the companies featured in the report are:

  • Cauldron, an Orange-based company that provides bioproduction and fermentation services to help fermentation technology companies create sustainable food, feed, fibre and fuel.
  • HydGene Renewables, a startup spun out from Macquarie University that is engineering microorganisms with synthetic biology to produce hydrogen on-site from renewable plant material and biomass waste.
  • Samsara Eco, which aims to recycle plastic waste for the fashion, automotive and packaging sectors using synthetic biology to develop enzymes that break down plastics into its components.

Main Sequence Ventures has backed both Cauldron and Samsara Eco, among many other synthetic biology companies in its portfolio.

“Synthetic biology has incredible potential to positively impact many global challenges, from food production to environmental sustainability,” says Gabrielle Munzer, partner at Main Sequence Ventures.

“Main Sequence is invested in helping build the synbio ecosystem to responsibly drive this field forward. Since 2021, we have supported over a dozen pioneering companies that are engineering biology to tackle pressing needs like food scarcity, agriculture, and waste remediation.

“Together, these companies have raised over $100 million in funding and created 135 jobs to date.”

Munzer says despite increased awareness of the importance of synthetic biology, the sector remains a ‘largely untapped opportunity’ for capital markets.

“With the right partnerships across industry, government and academia, we can accelerate the development of synbio products and solutions to provide social, environmental; and economic benefits,” she says.

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