Skip to content

DNA factory launches: BIOFAB, boosting the ease of bioengineering with “biological parts”

January 26, 2010
Need a gene promoter? You may soon be able to order one from a catalog. California synthetic biologists are launching a production facility that will provide free, standardized DNA parts for scientists around the world.

A light programmable biofilm made
by the UT Austin / UCSF team, iGEM 2004

Image: Wikipedia

The project, called BIOFAB: International Open Facility Advancing Biotechnology — or just BIOFAB for short — aims to boost the ease of bioengineering with "biological parts" that are shared resources, standardized and reliable enough that they can be switched in and out of a genome like electronic parts in a radio. If BIOFAB's vision is realized, researchers will be able to access an online registry and simply order what they need. The project is funded by a two-year $1.4 million grant from the National Science Foundation, as well as support from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the BioBricks Foundation (BBF), a nonprofit organization promoting synthetic biology.

Adam Arkin, BIOFAB's codirector and a professor of bioengineering at the University of California, Berkeley, and LBNL, says the group has already hired scientists who are in the lab, making constructs. "Certainly our goal is to have parts in there as soon as possible, and to have significant parts in there by the summer," he said, noting that having just two years to demonstrate that such an endeavor can be successful is both terrifying and exhilarating.

The idea of an open-source registry for DNA parts has been floating around since MIT synthetic biologist Tom Knight established the BBF and launched iGEM, an international student competition in synthetic biology. iGEM participants use and contribute to a registry of parts, but those parts aren't that well characterized or standardized (see our feature on iGEM and an accompanying story on parts standardization published last year.) Stanford University synthetic biologist Drew Endy, who will be BIOFAB's director and has been heavily involved with both iGEM and BBF, and other researchers have been working on ways to make standardization more consistent and efficient. Still, said Arkin, "There's certainly going to be a great deal of borrowing of what really worked for the [iGEM] registry."

Posted via email from healthystealthy health hacks

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: