The race towards cheaper, faster and better DNA synthesis continues. Today, next generation DNA synthesis company DNA Script announced a successful Series A round, raising 11 million euros (USD $13 million) from key industry partners, with Illumina Ventures at the lead. The round also includes additional investments from other European household names in biotech such as M Ventures, the corporate venture arm of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, plus existing investors Sofinnova Partners, Kurma Partners, and Idinvest Partners.
The company was founded in 2014 in Paris, quickly becoming one of the world’s leading company in manufacturing de novo synthetic nucleic acids thanks to their proprietary enzymatic technology. Contrary to current DNA synthesis practice, DNA Script utilizes an enzyme-based technology instead of chemical means for their synthesis, enabling template-free production that translates into affordable, rapid, high-quality and high-throughput production of DNA in a genomic scale. The company boasts an impressive 50 factor reduction in synthesis time, plus an error rate 500 times lower than the current methods. The company has expressed its interest in applying this technology to accelerate diverse synthetic biology applications, such as the development of new therapeutics, sustainable chemical production, improved crops and even applications in data storage.
“We are pleased to attract preeminent investors to our Series A round, which will allow us to further accelerate our R&D plan and technology scale-up,” stated Thomas Ybert, PhD, DNA Script Co-founder and CEO, in the company’s press release. “Our new process broadly enables new applications for synthetic DNA and RNA in drug discovery and development, industrial and food technologies, and DNA data storage. By applying high-quality oligo synthesis, we believe we can dramatically improve de novo nucleic acid synthesis performance compared to current technologies.”
Considering the ever-increasing growth of the field of genomics and the sustained need for synthetic nucleic acids, it’s no wonder that a new technology capable of rewriting 50 years of cumbersome chemical production was able to raise enough investment for their round. DNA Script’s biochemical process for DNA and RNA synthesis, which mimics the way nature produces genetic code, was enough of a game changer to catch the eye of Illumina Ventures, the healthcare-focused venture firm in strategic partner with the pioneer of DNA sequencing, Illumina. The independently-managed fund focuses on early-stage startups developing breakthrough technologies capable of transforming healthcare, focusing in life science tools, therapeutics, diagnostics, and personal wellness. Clearly, adding DNA Script to their portfolio was a natural step for them.
“We are thrilled to support the team at DNA Script and to be joined by such a strong syndicate of investors.” Said Nick Naclerio, Founding Partner of Illumina Ventures and new board member at DNA Script, through the press release. “Advancements in DNA synthesis have not kept pace with progress in DNA sequencing and molecular biology. DNA Script has the potential to set a new standard for how DNA is made and accelerate the adoption of synthetic biology across diverse disciplines.”
Illumina Ventures is joined by Merck Ventures, the Amsterdam-based, strategic corporate venture capital arm of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany. Their aim to drive innovation through both investment and support in fields that could impact Merck’s current and future businesses, focusing on healthcare, life sciences, performance materials and new businesses. DNA Script’s existing investors also include Sofinnova Partners, a France-based life sciences Venture Capital firm that has backed nearly 500 companies over more than 40 years, creating market leaders around the globe; Kurma Partners, European fund with more than €250 million under management that invests focusing on developing a “proprietary” portfolio of companies; and Indivest Partners, a leading pan-European private equity firm focused on the mid-market segment.
Both Sofinnova Partners and Kurma Partners stated their support towards DNA Script in their new seed round through their press release. “Since our initial involvement at the seed stage, DNA Script team has demonstrated an exceptional ability to accelerate its technical development, identify new markets and business models, and attract interest of major global players. With strong local community support and this international round of financing, DNA Script is well-positioned to reap benefits of this unique technology.”
Earlier this year, DNA Script’s CEO had stated in an interview with European biotech news outlet Labiotech that “Innovation in life science is indeed extremely intensive in time and resources, so you often need to raise money. My personal feeling is that the European VC scene is becoming stronger and stronger.” Clearly the global community will have to keep an eye out for startups and investments sprouting in the continent, shaking different regions and making waves all across the globe.