Camena Bioscience Hits DNA Synthesis Milestone

dna synthesis synthetic biology cambridge

Camena Bioscience has achieved a significant DNA synthesis milestone by reproducing the DNA sequence of a whole plasmid, which could be used in synthetic biology applications such as protein production and bacterial engineering.

DNA synthesis is a field that, until recently, had not been a focus for companies developing innovative technologies, with greater importance being placed on DNA sequencing and manipulation tools. 

However, Steve Harvey, CEO of Camena Bioscience, told me that the current rapid expansion in the synthetic biology market has resulted in “a drive to create new and improved DNA synthesis technologies.”

Synthetic biologists are looking for greater DNA synthesis accuracy and flexibility over what sequences can be produced,” he said.

Camena Bioscience has previously shown that its gSynth DNA synthesis and gene assembly technology was able to produce short segments of DNA more than 60% more accurately than the historic gold-standard of phosphoramidite synthesis. 

The phosphoramidite method uses chemicals to join individual nucleotides – the building blocks of DNA – together to create short DNA strands. Some other companies use enzymes to join individual nucleotides together. In contrast, Harvey explained that gSynth uses enzymes to stick short segments of DNA together, which helps improve the accuracy of the process.

The next step for the company was to increase the length of the DNA that they could accurately sequence beyond the 300 nucleotides they had already achieved, because the average human gene is just over 1000 nucleotides (1kb) long.

To support the expanding needs of synthetic biologists, any new DNA synthesis technology must be able to produce long DNA molecules,” Harvey explained.

Camena Biosciences has now achieved this with the production of a plasmid made up of double-stranded DNA that is 2.7kb long. Plasmids are an important tool for synthetic biologists because they can efficiently replicate within bacteria.

Harvey said that, although synthetic biology is still in an early phase, it is “beginning to disrupt many different markets. These include biotech markets such as the therapeutics space but also markets such as the textiles industry and agriculture.”

He added: “Now that we’ve developed a leading DNA synthesis technology, our milestones are focused on getting our technology out to support and enable synthetic biologists to make exciting new products. With that in mind, we intend to go through an expansion phase in 2020.”

Laura CowenLaura Cowen is a freelance medical journalist. Her background is in medical microbiology, with a particular interest in public health and infectious diseases. Outside of work she enjoys roller skating, trips to the theatre, and exploring the UK and Europe with her family in their new motorhome Bella.


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