Synthetic biology has advanced rapidly through the years as biologists, physicists, and engineers have continued their efforts to deliver new solutions to global healthcare, agriculture, manufacturing, and environmental challenges.
As rapidly as the field is evolving, it’s important to appreciate just how far we’ve come. That’s why we’re taking a moment to celebrate one of the major milestone advances in this field. Eleven years ago this month, scientists — including our cofounder, Dr. Dan Gibson — reported booting up a synthetic cell for the first time.
Gibson and collaborators at the J. Craig Venter Institute designed, synthesized, and assembled the 1.08-mb genome of Mycoplasma mycoides — starting from a digitized genome sequence — and then transplanted it into a M. capricolum recipient cell. The resulting new M. mycoides cells were controlled only by the synthetic chromosome. “The only DNA in the cells is the designed synthetic DNA sequence,” Gibson, et al. reported in the journal Science. “The new cells have expected phenotypic properties and are capable of continuous self-replication.” It was a scientific triumph that captured the imagination of the research community.
Just over a decade later, Codex DNA has automated much of that process with the BioXp™ system to enable routine, hands-free gene fragment synthesis up to 7.2 kb in length, and subsequent cloning into custom vectors overnight, using the company’s proven Gibson Assembly® technology. In the past year, our team used the benchtop BioXp™ system to synthesize and assemble a dozen SARS-CoV-2 genomes — including the latest variants of concern — to allow researchers around the world to study this pathogen safely, without needing the protection of a BSL-3 lab. Additionally, Codex DNA just introduced an mRNA workflow that provides an automated, end-to-end solution for generating biologically active custom mRNA overnight.
Progress in the synthetic biology field truly has been astonishing. While we look back and celebrate the anniversary of the world’s first synthetic cell, we’re also certain that the future holds even more promising discoveries. We’re looking forward to partnering with researchers along their way there.