Worlds first fully Automated DNA Printer: Futuristic tool for Pandemic Preparedness

BY: Ayushi Saxena - 21 Mar-2021

Sir Richard Feynman once said- "What I cannot create I do not understand." Interpreting this for synthetic biology, it’s clear that by building living systems, we can more profoundly understand the underlying principles of living cell functions. Leaps and advancements in Recombinant DNA technology viz. Synthesis, assembly and analysis of DNA have transfigured molecular biology and genetics research space with acceleration in emergence of new discipline- SYNTHETIC BIOLOGY.

This thrilling discipline of genome engineering is pushing boundaries in healthcare, agriculture, environmental challenges paving a way to garnish the canvas of research and development. With these fast-paced breakthroughs it’s not too fictious to say that innovations such as meatless meat, instant vaccines, data storage in biomolecules, powerful bio-factories, cell free biological products, microbial systems fixing nitrogen for every crop are possible. In fact, some of these are being translated as products while you’re reading this article. Synthetic Biology is not the future, it is the NOW!

Looking at the recent pandemic times topped with heavy challenges for public health; Synthetic biology emerged as the most powerful weapon to combat against them. A safe, efficient and speedy research mechanism is the prime need to understand pathogens such as SARS-CoV-2 and develop vaccines. For diagnostic kits, therapeutics and vaccines, harnessing the diverse tools of living systems are significant to mitigate pandemic. This again points out to exploit the power of synthetic biology in lessening the gap between research and product translation to battle any such kind of infectious disease more efficaciously.

A recent example from western world includes synthesis of synthetic genomes of SARS-CoV-2 by world’s first and only automated DNA printer BioXp 3250 system, developed by Codex DNA, which aided the process of building the vaccine candidate against coronavirus at Pfizer’s workstation. This stunning platform can custom synthesize DNA fragments ranging as small as 300 to 7,000 base pairs. Sounds like some 3D printer printing metals in garage, that is the perks of automation in synthetic biology techniques. *

Bert Hubert’s famous article about “Reverse Engineering the source code of the Pfizer-BioNTech SARS-CoV-2 Vaccine” was all it took to turn eye-balls around:

“At the very beginning of the vaccine production process, someone uploaded this code to a DNA printer (yes), which then converted the bytes on disk to actual DNA molecules.”

No wonders, the platform has been recognized in the Top 10 Innovations of 2020 by The Scientist Magazine. 

If only these technologies were accessible earlier, our response to the pandemic could have been expedited.

If we dive into the Indian orientation towards synthetic biology, are we advanced enough to imply synthetic biology applications as to give a robust fight against such troublesome situations? India is steadily spreading its wings in this research space with so many potential aspirations and peremptory challenges. Despite the huge benefits of such cutting-edge automated technologies like BioXp 3250 in reduction of manual handling of such infectious viral material, one of the major challenges is the lack of awareness and avail adopt these tools.

Developing and implementing technologies that can automate the processes along with speed and accuracy is the need of the hour. So, if any such phase is encountered in future, we would be prepared and comeback with better and rapid response. Just imagine how such revolutionary automation could cut down development time by simply synthesizing genomes as we print our documents!

“Think and design in Frankenstein style, 
Build biology and stay ahead a mile” - Ayushi Saxena


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About the Author :

"Ayushi Saxena is Marcom Executive at Premas Life Sciences with keen interest in science writing. She is a biotechnology enthusiast who thrives for knowledge and is fascinated with breakthroughs of Molecular Biology and Genomics. Balancing her ways in marketing and writing, she can be found somewhere between Literature and Science."

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