Getting to Breakthroughs Faster with Mass Quantities of Synthetic DNA

Posted by Nat Connors on 8/11/16 10:03 AM
In this video, Patrick Boyle, Head of Design at Ginkgo Bioworks, discusses how mass quantities of synthetic DNA speed his design-build-test cycles and how long-length DNA constructs open up design possibilities in synthetic biology research.



"The key for us is doing more projects in parallel, and because biology is all related to each other, it means that we do our projects faster, because the more DNA we can look at, the more we learn, and subsequently, as we go through multiple cycles of design, build, test, ferment, each of those cycles requires fewer designs, because we're able to cover so much of the design space in the initial rounds.

Basically, the way to make biology faster is to do fewer design cycles, and the way you do fewer design cycles is by looking at more designs in each cycle, so Gen9 being able to supply millions of base pairs on demand means that we can design the build test cycle to be as wide as it needs to be to cover the broad spectrum of designs we think might be important for a project.

So, it really means that we can figure out ideal designs in a single round of experiments rather than multiple rounds of experiments, and that you can only do that if you can order large amounts of designs in parallel.

We started thinking about what a foundry for engineering biology looks like if you can get DNA at this scale, and what happened is that we started to design our experiments in the foundry around that scale of DNA synthesis. It means that we push more of our by hand experiments to automation because we know that we can look at enough designs, and there's really a positive feedback loop...the more automation you bring into the experiments, the more experiments you can do, the faster you learn. Ultimately, each iteration of the foundry really requires more synthesis scale, because as we make our experiments more automated, we can go through more designs. That means that we can do more projects, so it's a positive feedback loop of scaling. If you just assume that the DNA's going to be there, you can do that.

The cool thing about doing synthesis with Gen9 is that we can ask for a lot of very small DNA products. Often we're actually asking for very large DNA products, so we can actually print out full pathways. We've done designs up to 10kb that encompass multigene pathways where we can look at hundreds of iterations of those multigene pathways in a single round of synthesis. Being able to make things up to 10kb really gives us a lot of flexibility in terms of the designs that we can try." 

Topics: Synthetic Biology, Gene Synthesis, DNA Synthesis

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Founded by pioneering scientists in fabrication, genetics, and bio-engineering, the Gen9 vision is one of democratizing synthetic biology. Our goal is to enable broad adoption of powerful synthetic biology techniques by providing custom DNA constructs of the highest possible quality. 

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