Call for Ideas

Moving upstream in synthetic biology


Astera is seeking short statements of ideas for innovations that might help synthetic biology scale. We will publish these statements on our website, and will award $1,000 bounties for the five best ideas.


This is an exciting time for synthetic biology: We’ve advanced past proof-of-concept for ways to replace traditional solutions in a wide variety of domains (climate, food, therapeutics, cosmetics, manufacturing, terraforming, etc.) using more planet- and human-friendly methods. There’s demonstrable and growing demand for innovative synbio solutions.

Much of this work, however, has hit the same wall: scalability. Many factors together cap progress, including limited and suboptimal organismal chassis, fermentation hardware optimized for a narrow set of options, and long timelines. Even where they are technologically and environmentally superior, it remains difficult for many synbio solutions to achieve cost parity with traditional alternatives. This has led to companies winding down and investor interest cooling.

Astera aims to identify “upstream” interventions — such as more diverse host or source organisms that are optimal for scaling, alternative fermentation or growth approaches, and high-risk but creative scaling strategies — that might help synthetic biology scale cost-effectively, and therefore unlock new applications and funding opportunities. We are sourcing ideas from the community as one early step in an effort to support innovation in this domain.

We are seeking short (from a couple sentences to one page) statements that describe a technological bottleneck limiting innovation in synthetic biology, along with a proposed solution. What novel organisms, hardware, software, and other technology would allow synthetic biology to scale in domains where it currently struggles to do so? What technology would we build to maximize synbio’s potential if we were starting the field from scratch?

The main objectives of this call are to:

We aim to identify speculative, “pre-competitive” ideas that can “lift all boats” in synthetic biology. We believe that, in addition to the goals above, sharing these ideas widely has the potential to help them find founders and funders. Accordingly, we will publish submitted statements on our website, and will award $1,000 bounties for the five best ideas we receive.

How to submit

Submissions are closed. See the winning statements.