Looking to the future...

The UQ-CSIRO Synthetic Biology Alliance will be particularly focused on synthetic biology applications in biomanufacturing and industrial biotechnology

As the Fourth Industrial Revolution takes off, global industries are already changing rapidly. With this change comes economic opportunity along with significant potential to generate societal and environmental benefits in Australia and around the world. 

“It’s critically important that we have a knowledge based economy going into the future, and advanced biomanufacturing is a major part of that,” says Associate Professor Claudia Vickers, a Group Leader at UQ’s AIBN and Director of the CSIRO Synthetic Biology Future Science Platform (SynBio FSP).

Synthetic biology is a critical tool that allows engineering of biological systems for efficient advanced biomanufacturing.

That’s why the University of Queensland and CSIRO are building a $4.5 million initiative to boost Australia’s synthetic biology capabilities and, in so doing, will drive advances in areas such as advanced biomanufacturing, environmental remediation, biosecurity, agriculture and healthcare research.

UQ Logo, Looking to the future, AIBN's Small Things Big ChangesUQ Logo, Looking to the future, AIBN's Small Things Big Changes

The UQ-CSIRO Synthetic Biology Alliance involves a close collaboration between the CSIRO SynBioFSP and UQ’s Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN).

“There’s incredible power in bringing together the capabilities of two really first class research organisations to capitalise on the skills and the strengths of both,” says Associate Professor Vickers.

The Alliance will be particularly focussed on synthetic biology applications in biomanufacturing and industrial biotechnology. In particular they are interested in converting cheap low cost biomass into value added products, she says. 

Microbes play a central role in this conversion process, and by joining forces in terms of expertise and resources, the researchers at UQ’s AIBN and at CSIRO will be able to strategically engineer the metabolic pathways in those microbes to make them as efficient and productive as possible.  

It’s an endeavour that will set us on a good path toward future industries, says AIBN Director Professor Alan Rowan.

“Our joint vision is to help create a sustainable, export-oriented biotechnology and bioproducts sector,intensive jobs,” he says.

“We’re delighted to be part of this,” says Rowan.

Training the next generation of biomanufacturing experts

Cells are indeed remarkable little factories, and harnessing their capacity to perform complex chemistry is driving progress in a wide variety of areas, including global health. 

As we’ve seen, the ability to easily and affordably manufacture biopharmaceuticals and other complex biologics is already transforming the way many medical conditions are treated. This is exciting, but the continued development of innovative new technologies and techniques will require more than just tiny cell factories, it will require a highly skilled workforce, too.

For advanced biomanufacturing of biopharmaceuticals and other complex biologics to truly thrive as an industry and revolutionise medicine, we need to train the next generation of experts. Fortunately, this is already underway. 

“Governments are putting more focus on training and professional development in the biologics sector,” says Professor Stephen Mahler, Director of the ARC Training Centre for Biopharmaceutical Innovation (CBI), which is based at UQ’s AIBN.

The CBI brings together a critical mass of expertise, world class facilities and industrial partnerships, and has established links with other organisations including the National Biologics Facility (NBF), which is funded by the National Capability Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS). 

Together, CBI and NBF are driving a National Biologics Training Program: a continuing professional development program equipping those involved in the biologics industry with cutting edge skills and knowledge. 

CBI currently supports 14 PhD students and five early career post-doctoral scientists, while its industry partners provide mentoring and placements for these students and scientists to gain valuable insight into the needs of the biopharmaceutical industry. 

“With industry driven projects directly linked to outcomes, these scientists are finding solutions to current problems, and are gaining the skills to support the growth of the industry into the future.”

“Australia has a culture of innovation,” says Professor Mahler. “Our curiosity and problem solving skills have driven the invention of some amazing discoveries and creations, from the ute right through to Wi-Fi.”

“With a focus on training combined with access to state-of-the-art facilities, Australia is well positioned to capitalise on the growing biologics industry, too, and to continue delivering high quality products and outcomes through research, development and advanced manufacturing of biopharmaceuticals both now and into the future.”

 

 

Small Things Big Changes Volume 1: Advanced Biomanufacturing, AIBN. This article is an extract from AIBN's Small Things Big Changes Volume 1

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