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California dreamin’
May 2015
by Lori Lesko  |  Email the author
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EMERYVILLE, Calif.—Industrial bioscience firm Amyris Inc. and Genome Compiler Corp., a Los Altos, Calif.-based synthetic biology platform company, have joined hands to launch a first-of-its kind DNA design and construction service enhanced with a more automated, sophisticated and less expensive method of ordering DNA and other biological products—from a website. The key to this collaboration is the integration of Amyris’ automated lab services combined with Genome Compiler’s online software tools and e-commerce platform.
 
These California companies’ joint project is funded in part by a grant from the Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation (BIRD Foundation), a U.S.-Israeli partnership between private sectors to expand private high-tech industries.
 
While financial details are not being disclosed, some sense of the monetary support for this venture and others was revealed Dec. 16, 2014, in Jerusalem when the board of governors of the BIRD Foundation approved $8.3 million in funding for 11 new projects. In addition to the grants from BIRD, the projects were also expected to access private-sector funding, boosting the total value of all projects to approximately $23 million.
 
“Amyris is committed to expanding the reach and access of our world leading biofab for advanced DNA construction,” Joel Cherry, president of research and development at Amyris, stated in a news release. “We are excited to partner with Genome Compiler to launch an integrated platform for DNA design, construction and lab services.”
 
“Similar to our recently launched µPharm drug discovery and production platform, this new partnership offers some of Amyris’ proprietary automated DNA engineering services to pharmaceutical and other biotech companies for scientific discovery and creates opportunities for a new revenue stream for our best- in-class technology platform,” Cherry added.
 
“This partnership is intended to give the scientific community access to Amyris’ Automated Strain Engineering platform via the Genome Compiler Interface,” Cherry tells DDNews. “This platform allows for the seamless construction of DNA fragments up to 25 kb’s in length, with an emphasis on rapidly reengineering host DNA elements.”
 
The DNA is “sequence-verified and supports efficient combinatorial library design,” Cherry says. “The ASE platform bridges the gap between current gene synthesis offerings and the requirements of strain engineers who typically need large numbers of large pieces of DNA.
 
“We will be working with current gene synthesis providers for de- novo DNA,” Cherry adds. “The platform is host-agnostic. By working with Genome Compiler, we will be able to combine its state-of- the-art design tools with advanced genotype design languages and construction at Amyris.”
 
Sales will not be limited to private high-tech industries or medical pharmaceuticals.
 
“The Genome Compiler interface is open to all, and we expect the website will be ready to order from Amyris in about a year to all labs, private or public,” Cherry says. “Final marketing details are still being decided. We expect there will be early-access beta users and that this platform will enable new types of startups that will not need to build out an entire biofab to test their hypotheses.”
 
“Our short-term and long-term goals are the same: to make tedious artisanal DNA assembly a thing of the past and free scientists from spending their time moving liquids from one tube to another,” Cherry says. “We also hope to use the larger volume of DNA construction to drive innovation in the Automated Strain Engineering platform—making it better, faster and cheaper. Ultimately, DNA construction should not be a barrier to testing an idea. In the long run, we see the field moving closer to the electronics industry model, with less vertical integration and more efficient transfer of services between biotech companies.”
 
Omri Amirav Drory, CEO of Genome Compiler, agrees.
 
“At Genome Compiler, we bridge the gap between design and learn iterations in the design-build-test-learn research and development cycle, while providing users with an intuitive, comprehensive synthetic biology platform solution,” Drory stated in a news release. “Making Amyris’ best-in-class biofab services broadly available as a service will enable scientists to spend their time where it counts, on the science itself, instead of doing manual bench work.”
 
“Adding Amyris’ advanced services to our providers’ portfolio will provide the pharma and biotech industries with a comprehensive platform for all their synthetic biology needs,” Drory added. “Customers would benefit from direct connections to an array of DNA synthesis providers and automation facilities, and from an extensive suite of advanced bio-informatics tools and genetic repositories, all in one platform.”
 
Amyris set the stage for the collaboration with Genome Compiler on Feb. 2, when it announced plans to launch its µPharm (microPharm) discovery and production platform “to provide the pharmaceutical industry with an integrated discovery and production process for therapeutic compounds for which a natural source is scarce or unavailable, or for which chemical synthesis is not cost- effective.”
 
Building on Amyris’ previous success in creating a strain for the cost-effective production of the antimalarial drug precursor artemisinic acid “and its low cost industrial synthetic biology platform, Amyris’ µPharm platform added the novel ability to generate chemical diversity relevant to therapeutic target identification,” according to Amyris.
 
The µPharm platform is founded on Amyris’ proprietary, industry-leading technologies for microbial strain engineering, including: a set of automated multiplex genome editing tools for high-efficiency installation and optimization of biosynthetic pathways; high- throughput screening capabilities for the identification of strains producing compounds of interest and development of strains that produce such compounds at commercially relevant levels; and proven industrial-scale fermentation and recovery infrastructure for reliable, predictable manufacturing of compounds from renewable feedstock.
 
“This transformative technology will provide a powerful tool for the identification of new drug candidates and allow a fast path for candidate synthesis for further validation and commercialization,” Cherry stated.
 
Code: E051511

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