April 16, 2015

These Six Companies Are Making Biology Easier to Engineer

Automation Biology
Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Biology is hard. It doesn’t need to be.

Over the last decade, the accelerating use of computation and robotics in the lab has superseded much of the tedious manual labor–though still not enough. These top companies promise to reinvent how we work in the lab. They’ll all be showcasing their automation platforms in London next week.

Agilent Technologies

“You can’t manage what you can’t measure,” management guru Peter Drucker has said. For years, Agilent has been building precision automation and measuring equipment. Gary Carter, director of market research, will discuss how scaling its measuring technologies could have tremendous economic and social impact.

Agilent Technologies’ next generation instruments enables scientists to maximize laboratory efficiency. Source: Agilent Image Library.

Agilent Technologies’ next generation instruments enables scientists to maximize laboratory efficiency. Source: Agilent Image Library.

Synbiota

We’ve often heard that lowering the bar for entry in biotechnology will democratize the science and open the field for new types of innovation. Connor Dickie, CEO, lives by that credo. Synbiota kits have made plasmid building easy enough so that high schoolers in a kitchen could do it. Dickie will introduce the new DNA Tinker Studio, which will allows inexperienced users to build a variety of new genetic functions into microbes.

The new DNA Tinker Studio will allow its users to build a variety of new genetic circuits into microbes.

The new DNA Tinker Studio will allow its users to build a variety of new genetic circuits into microbes.

 Gen9

Founded by synthetic biology luminaries George Church, Drew Endy, and Joseph Jacobson,  Gen9 provides next generation gene synthesis. The technique is based on high throughput DNA synthesis originally invented for printing DNA on microarrays. They announced a $21 million deal with Agilent just last year. Elizabeth Nickerson, senior manager, will announce the company’s customer portal that will allow researchers to design their gene nucleotide sequences.

Prof. George Church, co-founder of Gen9.

Prof. George Church, co-founder of Gen9.

Synthetic Genomics

Cloning is one step closer to being an obsolete nightmare of the past. Synthetic biologists still spend an inordinate amount of time constructing specific DNA sequences, but the BioXp 3200 system will allow researchers to synthesize large fragments of DNA from scratch, on the benchtop. Toby Richardson, Vice President of Informatics, will debut the Early Access Program for users itching to get their hands on it.

The BioXp 3200 DNA workstation from SGI-DNA, a Synthetic Genomics subsidiary. Source: SGI-DNA.

The BioXp 3200 DNA workstation from SGI-DNA, a Synthetic Genomics subsidiary. Source: SGI-DNA.

Transcriptic

For the scientist who doesn’t want to leave home, Transcriptic provides an automated service that will do your experiments for you. Their suite of robots in California will take your protocols via computer and run your experiments from the cloud. CEO Max Hodak will give a live demo of the system, which allows you to do PCR, cloning, flow cytometry and lots more all from your browser.

Transcriptic 10,000-square-foot facility includes a rapid prototyping lab, a tissue culture suite, and many robotic work cells.

Transcriptic 10,000-square-foot facility includes a rapid prototyping lab, a tissue culture suite, and many robotic work cells.

Thermo Fisher Scientific – GeneArt

You probably know them from ordering your supplies. Thermo Fisher Scientific’s recent acquisition of Life Technologies and GeneArt adds gene synthesis to the mix. The service provides chemical synthesis, cloning, and sequence verification. Associate Director Axel Trefzer will discuss Thermo’s most recent contributions to emerging biotechnology.

The Thermo Scientific Spinnaker Smart Laboratory Robot.

The Thermo Scientific Spinnaker Smart Laboratory Robot.