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Codexis, Molecular Assemblies Enter Revolutionary DNA Synthesis Partnership
By Judy Ya-Hsuan Lin
On June 23rd, Bay Area-based Codexis and San Diego-based Molecular Assemblies joined hands symbolizing a revolutionary shift in how the biotech industry synthesizes DNA.
DNA synthesis occurs with harsh chemicals, through linking the individual letters of DNA using the phosphoramidite synthesis. Even after years of refinement, these harsh solvents still influence the quality of the final product, and toxic chemical disposal remains unresolved.
In nature, strands of DNA are stitched by the unparalleled ability of polymerase, which functions on a nano-scale and meticulously produces DNA strands. Without the help of toxic artificial solvents, the natural polymerase process maintains a million times longer DNA and higher accuracy than artificially synthesized chains. Therefore, biotechnologists have been devoted to innovate and refine methods of creating DNA in the same way that nature does for years.
Recently, Molecular Assemblies claimed to have adapted the polymerase to produce custom DNA molecules that are up to 50 times longer than other competitors. Codexis, on the other hand, has been known for specializing in enhancing enzymes for industrial use with their advanced computer software – CodeEvolver platform technology.
The collaboration between Codexis and Molecular Assemblies aims to pursue miscellaneous, cost-effective, engineered enzymes for the enzymatic synthesis of DNA. Their agreement is upheld by having Codexis to purchase $1 million in Series A preferred stock of Molecular Assemblies as well as to contribute its CodeEvolver platform technology; in return, Codexis is eligible to earn an expected additional Series A preferred stock to accumulate to an ownership stake in excess of 10%. Both firms will also cooperate to drive the process to commercialization, eventually.
Apart from these company-level agreements, John Nicols, the Codexis’ President, and CEO will join the Molecular Assemblies’ Board of Directors. Nicols endorsed Molecular Assemblies “as a pioneer in this field with a strong team and an industry-leading intellectual property position” because Molecular Assemblies held a total of 24 patents on enzymatic DNA synthesis techniques. Michael J. Kamdar, President and CEO of Molecular Assemblies, in turn, showed confidence in this collaboration because he “[believes] harnessing the power of Codexis’ protein engineering capabilities with Molecular Assemblies’ scalable enzymatic DNA synthesis technology will accelerate the enzymatic DNA synthesis revolution.”
CodeEvolver Platform Technology
CodeEvolver Platform represents state-of-the-art advances in five critical areas – artificial intelligence, biology, fermentation, chemistry, and high-throughput robotics – to enable rapid development of highly optimized proteins custom-designed for the specific application, including crops, biomaterials and polymers, diagnostics and production of improved textiles, and biotherapeutics.
Among the most novel of these applications are DNA-based data storage and bio-computing. CodeEvolver is covered by more than 175 issued patents and pending patent applications worldwide. It provides advanced, customized solutions to real scientific and industrial challenges through uniquely combining chemistry and biology with proprietary data analytics.
In addition to Molecular Assemblies, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has also collaborated with Codexis to use the CodeEvolver platform. GSK commented that “we chose the Codexis platform after a thorough evaluation of the enzyme evolution landscape. Codexis has a significant track record of delivering evolved biocatalysts for pharmaceutical and fine chemical applications over an extended period of time. The Codexis CodeEvolver technology is enzyme class agnostic, which allows it to be applied to a wide range of chemical manufacturing opportunities. Codexis is also constantly improving the CodeEvolver platform, which has allowed them to stay at the cutting edge of enzyme evolution technology.”
The future collaborator Molecular Assemblies also held an optimistic view of what the CodeEvolver platform could bring. Kamdar “expect[s] that Molecular Assemblies and Codexis will be at the forefront of this transformation in DNA synthesis,” together to unleash “the sustainable, scalable, cost-effective, and on-demand production of long, high-quality DNA [for the] rapid innovation for a broad range of industries including synthetic biology, therapeutics, agriculture, and DNA data storage.”
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