Michael Kamdar
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A New Enzymatic Approach to DNA Synthesis Could be the Next Breakthrough in Synthetic Biology

The Molecular Assemblies story began more than 30 years ago when Dr. J. William Efcavitch and Curt Becker recognized the limitations of the chemical-based method of DNA synthesis.  The process relies on harsh chemicals that both damage the DNA and produce high volumes of toxic waste, limiting the lengths and the quality of the DNA. That’s what inspired both of them to found Molecular Assemblies in 2013 and advance a new enzymatic approach to DNA synthesis. Their approach promises to produce long, high quality DNA, fast, affordably in a more environmentally friendly way.

With a highly-experienced executive and scientific team and an expansive intellectual property portfolio, Molecular Assemblies has attracted investments from Agilent Technologies, Cavendish Impact Capital Fund, Eleven Two Capital, Keshif Ventures, Genomics Investment Syndicate, Newport Holdings, LP, and Alexandria Venture Investments, having raised $2.3 Million in seed funding in December. They were also recognized as a leader in innovation by CONNECT, an innovation company accelerator in San Diego.

Unconstrained by scale, format or platform, Molecular Assemblies’ enzymatic synthesis process is broadly applicable across new and emerging industries, including industrial synthetic biology and precision medicine, as well as emerging applications of DNA for data storage, nanomachines and bio-based electronics.

To learn more, we interviewed Biotech Veteran Michael J. Kamdar, CEO and director of Molecular Assemblies, who will be joining the Panel Discussion on the Future of DNA Synthesis (Sponsored by Molecular Assemblies) at SynBioBeta SF 2017 on October 3rd.

Why is synthetic biology such an exciting field to be part of at the moment?

We believe that current advances in synthetic biology will be transformative across many different industries. These advances will not only drive biology and scientific innovation to new diagnostics and therapeutics but also have enormous effects on the agriculture, chemicals, electronics and data storage industries.

Looking forward, in which area of synthetic biology do you see the most potential for growth?

We see substantial growth in DNA synthesis. As new enzymatic approaches advance, this will enable the field to further expand the applications of DNA.

Where do you see the biggest opportunities for synthetic DNA in the US?

We see opportunities across many different sectors over time, enabled by our ability to synthesize long ssDNA at both femtomole and multiple micromolar scales. In the near term, we anticipate utilities in CRISPR-Cas, targeted therapeutics and diagnostics. Direct synthesis of gene length DNA will greatly enhance the production of multigene constructs needed by the agriculture and metabolic engineering industries. Further downstream, we see applications in nanotechnology and data storage.

Can you tell us about your projects at Molecular Assemblies?

Molecular Assemblies is developing a completely novel, sustainable, multi-scale, enzymatic synthesis technology for producing long, high quality ssDNA molecules that can either be used as is or assembled into dsDNA constructs.

What challenges persist in your field, and what progress has your team – or other peers – made in overcoming them?

Start-up companies, universally, need to convince others (investors, partners, academia) that their approach/technology unique and beneficial to ensure adequate funding  as well as to attract talent. At Molecular Assemblies, we have been successful in proving our enzymatic approach is beneficial which has resulted in strong academic relationships, attraction of great talent and funding for our efforts.

What are the upcoming milestones and long-term priorities for your company?

Successful demonstration of multiple rounds (>200 bases) of enzymatic incorporation of all four nucleotide bases.

What are you most looking forward to at SynBioBeta SF 2017?

The spirit of interaction and collaboration that exists. It is always great to connect/reconnect with colleagues who have a similar passion to advance synthetic biology.

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