Science and Innovation for Sustainability – Exploring the challenges with accelerating scaling of these industries and potential regulatory barriers to and social acceptance of these biobased products

Wednesday 29 June 2022 – 16:00 – 17:00 AEST

Chair: Dr Paul Bertsch
Panellists: Aditi Mankad, Lisa Kelly, Ian O’Hara, Colin Jackson, Michelle Colgrave, KC Carswell

Synthetic Biology or Advanced Engineering Biology is an interdisciplinary science involving biology, engineering, chemistry, and data science, that represents one of the fastest growing areas of modern science. Synthetic biology is a field of science that involves the design or redesign of organisms for useful purposes by engineering them to harness the power of nature to sustainably produce, novel materials, green chemicals, and novel food, feed, and fibre alternatives, disrupting virtually every industrial and agricultural sector. Additionally, organisms can be engineered to remove GHG from the atmosphere at scale or to build resilience into climate vulnerable ecosystems, playing a key role in climate resilience and climate action. Synthetic biology reduces the need for petroleum-based chemicals as well as for plant- and animal-based products, benefiting the environment. In recent years investment in synthetic biology companies has grown from US$3.1B in 2019 to >US$36B in 2021 and it has been estimated that 60% of the global economy’s physical inputs could be made using synthetic biology by 2040, resulting in direct economic benefits of at least US$1.7 trillion. A recent analysis for Australia concluded that synthetic biology represents an AUD$30B industry for Australia by 2040 with an associated 45,000 new jobs. This session will explore the transformational role synthetic biology will have at guiding the industrial complex and future food production systems to a sustainable future. The session will engage researchers, policy makers, industries and venture capitalists in comprehensive discussion about the current and future state of synthetic biology across sectors and how it will fuel transformations to a sustainable future.

Dr Paul Bertsch – Science Director, CSIRO
Dr Bertsch is the Science Director of CSIRO Land and Water. He has championed inter- and transdisciplinary research approaches that integrate land, water, ecosystems, cities, social and economic sciences, environmental contamination and toxicology, earth observation, and climate adaptation to address the grand challenges facing Australia and the global community. He has been a passionate advocate and leader in Synthetic and Advanced Engineering Biology in CSIRO and Australia more broadly. He served as Interim Queensland Chief Scientist where his primary agenda was working across government to establish strategies and infrastructure to grow an advanced biomanufacturing industry in Queensland.
Prior to joining CSIRO in 2013, Paul was the Director of the Tracy Farmer Institute for Sustainability and the Environment and Professor of Environmental Chemistry and Toxicology, University of Kentucky, Lexington. Prior to this he was Director of the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory where he is the Georgia Power Professor of Environmental Chemistry Emeritus at the University of Georgia, Athens. He currently is an Honorary Professor of Environmental and Soil Chemistry at the University of Queensland.
Paul has more than 30 years of experience in environmental and sustainability science research and development and is an elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the American Society of Agronomy (ASA), the Soil Science Society of America (SSSA), and the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC). He is also a lifetime National Associate of the United States’ National Academy of Sciences (NAS).

Dr Aditi Mankad – Senior Research Scientist and Team Leader, Sustainability Pathways Program – CSIRO Land & Water
Dr Aditi Mankad is a Senior Research Scientist and Team Leader with the Sustainability Pathways Program within CSIRO Land & Water, based in Brisbane. Aditi is trained in psychological science and leads a team of scientists focused on risk and vulnerability in agricultural Innovation, biosecurity and biotechnology. Aditi also leads the social and economic sciences agenda within CSIRO’s Synthetic Biology Future Science Platform.

Lisa Kelly – Acting Director, Biotechnology Toxicology & Nutrition Science, Food Standards Australia New Zealand
Lisa is a technical specialist in biotechnology with over 20 years at FSANZ as a team leader. She oversees FSANZ’s scientific programme for biotechnology including the management and assessment of GM food applications, and is also engaged in work with Health Canada to improve the efficiency of GM food safety assessments through work sharing and collaboration. Lisa has also been actively involved in the development of internationally harmonised approaches to GM food safety assessment through both Codex and the OECD. Lisa’s main focus currently is leading FSANZ’s work to modernise the regulatory approach to GM foods to better address emerging genetic technologies including new breeding techniques.

Ian O’Hara – Deputy Dean, Faculty of Engineering, QUT
Ian O’Hara is Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Engineering at QUT. Ian is widely recognised as a leading expert in policies, technologies and systems for developing the bioeconomy and producing bio-based products including biofuels, bioenergy and biomaterials. In addition to his academic role, Ian also represents the Queensland Government as the Biofutures Industry Envoy and acts as an ambassador for Queensland’s Biofutures industry and industrial biotechnology sector. As the Envoy, Ian provides strategic advice to government and assists in securing domestic and international investment to grow the Biofutures sector.

Colin Jackson
Colin views protein engineering as as essential component of the efforts to solve many of the most important environmental problems facing us in the 21st century, especially the fate of plastic and climate change. Colin holds a Ph.D. in Chemistry from the Australian National University, and a BSc(Hons) from the University of Otago, NZ. He has published over 130 scientific papers, holds several patents and has been awarded several prizes for his work, including the Shimazu Medal from the Australian Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, the Rennie Medal from the Royal Australian Chemical Institute and the Australian Capital Territory Scientist of the Year.

Professor Michelle Colgrave – Professor of Food and Agriculture, CSIRO
Michelle Colgrave is a Professor of Food and Agriculture focusing on protein innovation. She leads CSIRO’s Future Protein Mission, a multidisciplinary research initiative that will transform our food systems. The Future Protein Mission is centred on principles of sustainable growth delivering high quality, affordable and nutritionally optimised protein for Australia. It will develop protein-based industries (including traditional protein, plant-based protein, insect and microbial protein) along the value chain from production to the customer, delivering premium protein ingredients and products, addressing the rapid growth of the protein-based sector.

KC Carswell
KC relocated with their family to Australia late last year, but prior to that they served as the Vice President of Technology at UPSIDE Foods, a leading cell cultured meat startup. There, they led process development and oversaw the construction of UPSIDE’s first production facility. Prior to culturing cells for food, KC spent the previous two decades developing and supporting cell culture processes for the production of biotherapeutic proteins. KC holds a PhD in Chemical Engineering from Northwestern University in Chicago and a BS degree from the University of Texas.