Historically, the cost of developing synthetic DNA has been exorbitantly expensive—running to tens of millions of dollars to build a small genome. “We can do that for a fraction of the cost,” claims Munnelly.
As the price comes down, the number of things that can be accomplished multiplies and leads to more and better products. For example, “The ability to access large quantities of high-quality synthetic DNA inexpensively lets researchers create and test many versions of genes or pathways,” continues Munnelly. “This lets scientists make improved drugs faster and identify better binding events or properties. It will enable the creation of whole new application areas.”
Gen9 further encourages the use of synthetic DNA through an annual competition with a prize of one million bases. Principal investigator Tanja Kortemme, Ph.D., at the University of California–San Francisco won last spring with a metabolic engineering project focused around cell signaling. Her goal is to design proteins that either interrupt or take advantage of signaling pathways.
Other researchers throughout the country are investigating new ways to conduct drug discovery by investigating protein-to-protein applications in vivo and to carry out projects in regenerative medicine and biosensors.
Gen9’s newest product, GeneByte Plus DNA constructs, was commercialized in July. The product is the newest in the Gen9 product portfolio, with lengths from 3,000 to 10,000 double-stranded base pairs. It is designed for metabolic pathway engineering.
The GeneByte™ DNA constructs, already out, come in lengths between 1,000 and 3,000 base pairs, while the GeneBit™ DNA constructs are synthesized in lengths between 500 and 1,000 base pairs.
Gen9 also recently launched a variant library for peptide and antibody engineering. As Munnelly points out, “Most variant libraries on the market today are made by mutagenesis. Gen9’s is the first rationally designed library. And, because we’re making so many oligos that make so many genes, we can make many variations in small parts of the genes and put them together combinatorially, with up to 1010 variations in one reaction.”
Munnelly says he plans to launch other variant libraries throughout the year. Next will be a metabolic pathway library that enables gene shuffling and, therefore, the ability to optimize constructs by changing promoters. Gen9 also is developing “scanning libraries that mutate genes systematically at every base all the way across the gene,” he adds. Initial applications are for protein, antibody, and enzyme engineering for pharmaceutical and industrial uses.