Agilent Technologies took an equity stake in synthetic biology pioneer Gen9 by closing on a $21 million investment in the developer of scalable technologies for synthesizing genes, the companies said today.

The deal gives Agilent a presence on Gen9’s board of directors, as well as in a biotech field where Agilent already has a presence. Its oligo synthesis technology produces what the company says is the highest-quality long DNA compared to that of any commercially available source.

Also, Agilent in recent years launched partnerships in synthetic biology. The company was the first industry member of University of California, Berkeley’s Synthetic Biology Institute in 2011. A year earlier, Agilent announced a collaborative investment with Harvard University’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering.

“We believe that Gen9 has the correct strategy, technology, team, and IP portfolio to complement Agilent’s innovations in oligo library synthesis and, working together, we will help realize the promise of synthetic biology,” Neil Cook, vp and director, Agilent Laboratories, said in a statement.

As part of the agreement, Gen9 will incorporate Agilent’s Oligonucleotide Library Synthesis (OLS) technology into its manufacturing process, allowing for large-scale creation of pathway constructs and DNA libraries. Gen9 already manufactures and ships double-stranded GeneBits™ DNA constructs, or gene fragments from 500 to 1,024 base pairs long.

The company was founded in 2009 to generate high-quality DNA content toward chemical and enzyme production for industries that include agriculture, biofuels, pharmaceuticals, and even data storage.

Gen9’s next-generation gene synthesis technologies enable the high-throughput, automated production of DNA constructs at lower cost and higher accuracy than previous methods. The technologies underpin the Gen9 BioFab® platform, which can synthesize tens of thousands of gene fragments in just a few square feet of laboratory space.

Added Kevin Munnelly, Gen9’s president and CEO, in the same statement: “Agilent’s investment is a powerful validation of our proprietary BioFab platform, and we look forward to working closely with them to further innovate around our manufacturing capabilities and build Gen9 into the leading high-throughput supplier to the synthetic biology marketplace.”

Gen9’s founders were Joseph Jacobson of MIT, George Church of Harvard Medical School, and Drew Endy of Stanford University. Additional investors in the company included Draper Fisher Jurvetson, The Kraft Group, PBM Capital Group and several angel investors, including Scott A. Schoen and Weili Dai.

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