The consequences of the climate crisis, coupled with soil degradation and its impact on food and water security, are dire. However, as ambitious as that sounds, synthetic biology companies can lighten some of the environmental burdens facing the planet.
Since it involves the redesign of organisms by genetically engineering them to have new beneficial characteristics, synthetic biology is a field that has applications ranging from the manufacture of enzymes, to the production of sustainable biofuels to even developing therapeutic actions for diseases, such as the commercially available Merck. Januvia diabetes medication.
This concept was first considered in the early 1960s, in a publication who studied the lac operon – a group of genes that help metabolize lactose in Escherichia coli. The study confirms the existence of a regulatory circuit involved in the cell’s response to its environment. Shortly thereafter, programmed gene expression methods were actualized, and by the 2000s, high-throughput DNA assembly methods had evolved.
Currently, various companies are conducting research on the potential applications of synthetic biology, in an effort to tackle environmental degradation among other imminent problems. Below are six companies, listed in alphabetical order, that have influenced advances in the field of synthetic biology.
Combining artificial intelligence and genetic engineering, Boston-based Asimov is advancing the field of synthetic biology. Synthetic biology companies have designed software that simulates genetic systems in various types of cells.
The company has made progress since its founding in 2017, and its genetic design technology takes influence from the Cello platform, which the company’s founder created before launching Asimov. The Cello’s biological circuitry is modeled after the integrated circuit concept in electronics. Natural plasmids in E. coli – Gram negative bacteria present in the gut that can cause urinary tract infections – generate these circuits, which then control cellular functions depending on environmental signals.
In January this year, the top US private biotech healthcare investment went to Asimov, with biotech raising $200 million in Series A and Series B funding rounds. Financing from Series B funding was led by the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPP Investments), followed by Investments include, among others, Fidelity Management & Research Company, KDT, Casdin Capital and Pillar. The funds will be used to further refine the mammalian synthetic biology tool.
Having collaborated with more than 25 companies, Asimov offers its technology, which includes genetic design software and proprietary cell lines, to its partners.
We have been warned about the implications of fossil fuels for global warming, but the world’s dependence on petroleum continues to dominate. However, some biotechs are looking for alternatives. Evonetix is a synthetic biology company that aspires to develop gene synthesis technology to produce products from biomass.
Located in biotech hotspot Cambridge in the UK, Evonetix semiconductor technology aids DNA synthesis. With the mission to bring its semiconductor chips to a commercial scale, it will be able to control independent circuit synthesis. This is done through thermal control of the synthesis site.
The technology uses silicon chips where heat is set to build up single-stranded DNA strands, which then become longer double-stranded DNA after annealing – a heat treatment that changes the material’s properties. Thousands of molecules are synthesized parallel to each other on the chip.
Most recently, in February, the synthetic biology company completed a $24 million financing round. To date, Evonetix’s series B funding has exceeded $54 million. This round saw funding from investors such as Forestite Capital, Molten Ventures, Morningside, and Cambridge Consultants, among others.
In an effort to help tackle the looming threat of climate change, California-based Kiverdi aims to provide solutions that revive soils, convert plastics into biodegradable materials, as well as create alternatives to fishmeal. What’s more, a synthetic biology company has developed a method to make meat from the air. Yes, you read that right.
Free from pesticides, herbicides and hormones, Kiverdi’s technology, which is a carbon negative process, focuses on air fermentation. This is done by mixing elements of air in the culture to produce protein, which is then harvested, refined, and dried, forming a kind of flour. Protein Water Flour is adapted to recreate the texture and taste of a wide variety of meats. Using 0.8 liters of water per kg of protein, the process uses fewer resources than other meats, and can be produced in four days.
Founded 15 years ago, Kiverdi also breaks down carbon materials into their respective basic elements to create bio-based products. Utilizing the concepts behind NASA technology for deep space travel, excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is captured by microbes, and nutrients and bio-derived products are produced.
In 2021, the company raised $32 million in a series A funding round to accelerate the commercialization of Protein Water.
A breakthrough technology, the CRISPR gene-editing technique can create drought-resistant crops and even cure genetic diseases. Mammoth Biosciences California aims to use the new CRISPR technique to be able to diagnose disease and develop therapies.
Its CRISPR-based detection platform can be programmed to build tests for any target, while its protein discovery platform is based on the company’s CAS enzyme toolbox which can be used to develop therapeutic treatments via gene editing. The latter involves in-silico analysis – a method that usually screens therapeutic potential against its target – from metagenomic databases and machine learning algorithms. The CRISPR system is built and tested in the laboratory.
Founded in 2017, the synthetic biology company raised $195 million to expand its CRISPR platform for in vivo gene editing two years ago. After securing funding, Mammoth Biosciences is now considered a unicorn startup – a company that has reached a billion dollar valuation without being listed on the stock market.
Founded five years ago, Ribbon Biolabs specializes in building whole genomes, CRISPR libraries, as well as developing DNA-based products. Founded in the Austrian capital Vienna, the company’s patented technology combines biochemistry, algorithms and robotic automation for DNA synthesis, making the process more cost-effective.
In December 2022, the company announced the implementation of the InfiniSynth platform for automated assembly of sequence-agnostic and length DNA. This technology exploits the potential of robotic automation to amplify DNA assembly. Because it can sequence more than 10,000 base pairs using this mechanism, Ribbon Biolabs can produce DNA on a commercial scale.
The assembly workflow ensures that there are no discrepancies during polynucleotide synthesis, increasing efficiency and reducing production time.
The company obtained a US patent for its method of synthesizing DNA using a pre-built oligonucleotide library, in July 2022. And to enable large-scale DNA synthesis, the synthetic biology company raised €18 million ($19.88 million) in series A funding to set up its production facility. This investment will also help speed up the recruitment program to grow its team. The main investors this time are Hadean Ventures, Helicase Venture, IST Cube, Lansdowne Partners Austria and tecnet equity.
If you book a table at three-Michelin-starred restaurant Atelier Crenn in San Francisco and order from their menu, you probably won’t know that the meat is made from laboratory-raised, not cultured, cells. chicken.
The luxury restaurant’s collaboration with Upside Foods makes this experience possible. Founded in California in the US, the company is focused on an upcoming application of synthetic biology – the production of cell culture meat.
Founded in 2015, the company’s first product was developed by creating cell lines by extracting cells from chickens, after which the selected cell lines were introduced into cultivators containing nutrients to aid cell growth. Once the cells have multiplied, the meat is harvested and formed into chicken filets, before being seasoned and cooled for cooking. Since then, Upside Foods has ventured into developing cell lines of poultry, meat, and other seafood.
As the increased demand for meat is expected to double by 2050, cultivating it in the laboratory is a viable method, and as research advances, it offers consumers the choice to choose meat from conventional livestock, cell culture foods, or plant-based alternatives. In November 2022, the company’s farmed chicken was deemed safe by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and became the first company in the world to receive a “No Questions” letter from the FDA for its products.