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Global Biotechnology Insights
Posted on October 30, 2018

New tools for the rapid genetic engineering of mammalian cells

Ginkgo Bioworks, the organism company, has announced the opening of Bioworks4, its latest biological engineering foundry. With this fourth foundry, Ginkgo expands its footprint to nearly 100,000 square feet dedicated to designing and printing DNA and engineering living cells used in a wide range of industrial and pharmaceutical applications. Bioworks4 will for the first time enable Ginkgo to apply its automated, high-throughput process to the engineering of mammalian cell genomes, which are essential for pharmaceutical research and manufacturing. For more information see the iDTechEx report on Synthetic Biology 2018 and attend the IDTechEx Synthetic Biology Forum on 4, 5 and 6 December 2018.
 
Ginkgo's foundries are factories for rapidly prototyping genetically modified organisms (GMOs) for a wide variety of purposes ranging from industrial to pharmaceutical applications. From yeast that produce more sustainable materials to probiotic bacteria that treat disease directly in the gut, these GMOs are powering a more effective way to make things across major industries. Ginkgo foundries are accelerating the process for developing these products; at current capacity, a biological engineer working with the foundry can accomplish nearly 25 times more than was possible using traditional by-hand methods, a number that continues to increase as Ginkgo grows and foundry technologies improve. Since 2015, foundry output has doubled every six months.
 
Until now, Ginkgo's platform has focused on a diverse array of single-celled microorganisms like yeast and bacteria used in applications including food, agriculture, and materials. With Bioworks4, Ginkgo expands its capabilities to genetically engineered mammalian cells - cultured human and animal cells - which are a key resource used in pharma, including emerging treatments like cell or gene therapy and the production of biologics like antibodies and protein- or enzyme-based therapies.
 
While recent techniques including CRISPR have enabled more precise and cost-effective engineering of mammalian cells, it remains a largely manual and time-consuming process. Moreover, genetic techniques are just one part of the necessary toolkit for effective development of new therapeutics. By applying its automated foundry techniques to mammalian cell engineering - from DNA synthesis to systems-level analysis - Ginkgo has the unique ability to rapidly prototype and test new therapies in higher throughput, accelerating timelines and reducing costs of the development cycle. Today's launch will ultimately enable more effective product discovery and optimization at the pre-clinical stage, arming researchers with better data and the best possible drug candidates before entering costly animal testing or clinical trials.
 
Ginkgo's growing platform for genetic engineering allows companies and labs from startups to large pharma companies to benefit from its powerful technology, without having to invest in costly lab infrastructure or rely on legacy processes that slow innovation and development. The launch of engineered mammalian cell capabilities in Bioworks4 extends this access to pharmaceutical partners. Now, companies discovering and commercializing therapeutics can research, develop, and test medicines in a cost-efficient and scalable manner, opening the floodgates for novel life-changing treatments to emerge.
 
"We believe in biology's ability to transform industries," said Jason Kelly, Ginkgo Bioworks CEO and co-founder. "The synthetic biology ecosystem is growing rapidly and we're energized to see that Ginkgo's foundries continue to be at the core of helping such diverse industries leverage the power of biology. We're thrilled to open Bioworks4 and look forward to contributing to the infrastructure that will one day make starting a pharma company as easy as starting an internet company, and simultaneously enable big pharma to be as agile as a startup."
 
Source and top image: Ginkgo Bioworks