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Special feature on UK synthetic biology start-ups: LabGenius

Posted on 11/10/2016

Exploring exciting new synthetic biology (SynBio) start-ups

Exciting new synthetic biology start-ups are emerging as a result of huge investment in UK research.

This article is part of a series of special features on the SynBio SIG, which will highlight some of the exciting new synthetic biology (SynBio) start-ups that have emerged from the huge investment in UK research in this area.

In this edition, Ben Mackrow described the development of LabGenius, a London-based DNA library synthesis company, as well as some of their new commercial technologies.

From Ben Mackrow, Scientist:

LabGenius was founded by Dr James Field in 2012, along with Synthetic Biology leaders Professor Paul Freemont and Professor Richard Kitney at Imperial College. In 2014, backing from both private investors and the UK government, along with support from SynBiCite, enabled the company to develop, validate and commercialise their novel DNA library synthesis technology. This patent-pending technology, bypasses PCR amplification and long sequence hybridisation creating libraries of greater scale, diversity, and flexibility than anyone on the open market. It permits the introduction of large, complex variability within a target DNA sequence, which may be informed by a design at the nucleotide or amino acid level. We can create libraries of up to 10^13 unique variants, free from biasing.

At the recent SynBioBeta London, CEO Dr James Field announced the launch of LabGene Combi C, an affordable and accessible, off-the-shelf combinatorial library. We hope this low price point will enable more academic researchers to make use of synthetic DNA libraries, replacing time-consuming mutagenesis, unreliable error prone PCR and other laborious protein engineering techniques. A capability comparison with alternative suppliers shows that our approach can be used to construct 20x as many designs as the nearest competitor, for 1/4 the price. Combi C complements the rest of our scanning and combinatorial library range.

I am most excited by our LabGene Combi S offering, a hand-mixed combinatorial library that allows a very high degree of control over amino acid representation. Users can provide a high level overview of their design, select target changes based on qualitative data, detailed structural models, homologous alignments, consensus maps or informed by sequencing data. In-house design algorithms enable us to constrain the design to include or exclude certain residues and control percentage representation at any given position within the target sequence. Combi S is proving to be an intelligent, quick and economical alternative to trimer-based libraries.

Both our design and build technologies are well matched, and help the user intelligently design and identify the optimal solution, accurately encode that theoretical library into their build and then maximise the value of their screen. Essentially, we offer a solution to the non-trivial task of sampling vast genetic sequence space.

Since our launch we have experienced increasing interest from across the Biotech and Pharmaceutical industries and have completed projects in the areas of antibody engineering (naive and affinity maturation), biomaterial development and enzyme optimisation. These range from broad 1st generation libraries to more focused 2nd and 3rd generation libraries. When you consider our favourable pricing and short turnaround times, you can understand why we are well placed to aid the rapid iterations through the design-build-test cycle.

More recently, LabGenius and a FTSE250 partner company have initiated a Biomaterials project to augment the function of fibre-based body armour with binding peptides. To find out more about LabGenius and our library design and synthesis technology please contact us at hi@labgeni.us or visit our new and improved website at www.labgeni.us.

If you are involved in a UK SynBio start-up and would be interested in promoting your activities through the SynBio SIG, please contact synbiosig@ktn-uk.org.