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Launching the SynBioBeta Digital Biology Newsletter, Issue #1



Hi all,

Welcome to issue #1 of our new Digital Biology Newsletter! I’ve been hearing from many readers that you’d like more content about the growing power of digital biology, so today we’re launching a new newsletter that brings together a host of great digital biology content, and I’m thankful to Tim Gardner at Riffyn for sponsoring the first few of these. Twenty years ago Jim Collins, Tim Gardner and Charles Cantor submitted a grant proposal to the Office of Naval Research entitled “Design and Construction of Genetic Applets.” That project, among others funded that year by the ONR, became the foundation for the field of Synthetic Biology. In his keynote on October 3 at SynBioBeta next month, Tim will reflect on the evolution of the field from those first moments, and share lessons learned from twenty years of developing biotechnologies from napkin sketch to marketed product.

Digital Biology Pioneers


Tim Gardner, Founder and CEO of Riffyn, and Will Canine, Co-founder and CPO of Opentrons.

The synthetic biology stack
I’ve also been speaking a lot lately with Will Canine, the founder of Opentrons, on the idea of “the synthetic biology stack”. I’ve been talking about the stack for the last five years, but Will rightly pointed out that I’ve been getting it all wrong. He has a wonderful perspective that I wanted to share with you here. Will’s article is the first article in our series on the synthetic biology tool chain, and I hope you enjoy it. If you want to get in on ground floor on this series of articles that go deep and define the industry, and are interested in sponsoring a part of this new series then please drop me a note.

Towards data-driven biotechnology:
Synthetic biology companies are increasingly embracing tools such as cloud computing, professionally built software, and lab automation, bringing us closer towards data driven biotech. If you “want to know whether a company is fit for the future, measure what it does with bytes, not barrels,” writes SynBioBeta contributor Ian Haydon.

Robots at the Autodesk-affiliated Edinburgh Genome Foundry automatically assemble large DNA constructs.

Experiment 2.0: Reshaping the scientific enterprise by rethinking your data
How are we reshaping the digital transformation of biology? How are we going to make biology more robust, reliable, predictable and easier to engineer? Read our article on the “Experiment 2.0” where companies like Riffyn are shaping the lab of the future by helping scientists change the way they think about the scientific experiment. Experiments are much more than a means for finding answers to scientific questions: They can be viewed as a kind of instrument for gathering high-quality, reproducible data. These instruments can in turn be assembled and built upon in a “supply chain of scientific methods and experimental data whose final product is knowledge of unassailable quality.”

Finally, there’s an interesting new article at The Motley Fool on how synthetic biology is the next IT industry, drawing some interesting parallels between our fields. Check out the video with Ginkgo’s Chief Commercial Officer Matt McKnight on how Ginkgo is using synthetic biology with Bayer, and how it could be applied for other large-scale opportunities.

I hope you enjoy the rest of your weekend,


What’s happening with Digital Biology in San Francisco next month? Here’s a sneak peek of a few sessions you might love:

  • Democratizing the hardware stack: Will affordable, open-source biotech enable small players to push the envelope of synthetic biology? How can low-cost hardware contribute to the decentralization of innovation in biology? Is the demand for low-cost hardware creating new markets for the existing industry? We bring together a panel of experts to explore these questions.
  • Automation and machine learning: The impact on biopharma. The tools of synthetic biology are changing the way biopharma pursues R&D, giving access to problems that were out of reach just a decade ago. Industry leaders will discuss trends in biopharma, what tools like AI can and cannot do, the role of miniaturization and advanced technologies in drastically scaling experimentation, and what bottlenecks persist.
  • The lab of the future: The lab is getting smarter, cheaper, and more agile. A featured fireside chat will look at the state-of-the-art in laboratory innovation, from the Internet of Things to miniaturization to lab automation, and ask the innovators who are radically changing how we work at the bench and explore how lab managers can leverage these technologies to meet their continuous improvement goals, expand their strategic impact, and take on more complex challenges.
  • The power of digitization and biofabrication: As synthetic biology and manufacturing become increasingly digitized, companies are developing novel products from biology with unprecedented speed and customization. BASF will lead a workshop to share how innovators are partnering with established industries with the tools of digitalization and biofabrication to create new materials, home, health, hobby and other goods in the consumer vertical.
  • Lab Data to Machine Learning in 30 Seconds (Riffyn and AWS) October 4 @ 4:30 pm – 7:30 pm Join Riffyn, Amazon Web Services, and an esteemed panel of thought leaders from GSK, Amyris, Novartis & DRx Capital and others for an afternoon/evening of food/cocktails and discussion of machine learning & AI in the life sciences.

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Marianna Limas

Marianna plays a critical role in displaying and communicating SynBioBeta’s message to the world. She manages SynBioBeta’s social media channels and newsletter, and works with the editorial, website, research and marketing teams.

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