Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Codon Devices expands gene scaffolding reach

Constructive Biology expert, Codon Devices, has opened a European subsidiary in the UK to support the rapid growth of the advanced gene synthesis and protein engineering markets.

The new subsidiary, Codon Devices UK, will focus in offering service and support help to its expanding synthetic biology customer base in Europe, Scandinavia and Israel.

The use of synthetic biology methods to construct engineered cell lines that increase the efficiency of biological drug and vaccine formation or speed-up the drug discovery process is ever increasing.

In addition, such systems can be used to generate enzymes that produce industrial chemicals or aid in the breakdown of plants for biofuel applications.

Traditionally, researchers have had to clone specific genes and splice them into an organism's DNA.

Codon Devices' fee-for-service offering allows researchers to specify a sequence that Codon will then synthesise and ship to the customer, enabling them to spend more time studying the effects of the sequences.

"There is a move away from cloning genes yourself in the laboratory as long as you can find a vendor such as Codon to supply you with gene constructs for expression libraries protein structure libraries," said Dr Michael Dyson, European Managing Director and head of Codon'd European subsidiary.

Such is the groundswell of demand that Dr Dyson estimates that the market will reach a size of around $2bn a year in the near future, compared with $40m a year before 2005.

This growth is helped by reduced costs associated with making these sequences enabled by high throughput parallel synthesis techniques that. Codon's facility can currently make up to 5 megabase pairs a month and is still scaling up production.

Historically, manufacturing of DNA was to stick together oligonucleotides but was only really useful in making oligomers up to 100 base pairs, and anything bigger was very difficult to QC.

Codon has developed a parallel synthesis platform dubbed BioFAB, which uses sophisticated informatics, robotics and sequencing technologies to accurately synthesize genetic codes.

The company claims that its BioFAB system can produce the gene constructs more rapidly and cost-effectively than other currently available technology

Indeed, last July, the company announced the successful construction and delivery of a sequence-verified, 35-kilobase genetic construct for Microbia's Precision Engineering business unit.

The construct was an 80 per cent synthetic gene cluster that codes for an optimised biosynthetic pathway used to produce an active pharmaceutical ingredient.

The company is also heavily involved in partnering companies to help them overcome especially challenging projects.

"It's very complex biology and what we do is a generation away from simply constructing oligomers using the Caruthers synthesis, we look at how to best construct the molecules, how you error check them and checking them for function," said Dr Dyson.

Indeed, the global demand for Codon's approach is such that the company has plans to expand operations in the Pacific Rim regions.

"Codon is investing heavily to address the global need for this technology and our expansion into Europe is being matched by an expansion into Japan and the Pacific Rim," said Dr Dyson.

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