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Advice for Starting a Biotech Company from a Grad Student turned Entrepreneur

Posted by Margo R. Monroe on Jul 10, 2014 3:17:00 PM

As a biomedical engineer and scientist, I like to envision that my research will have a direct impact on healthcare and the community. As a result, I have occasionally pondered translating my research into a startup company. However, like many like-minded people, I quickly realize that a company requires more than just good data to become a product.

I spoke with Dr. Mike Koeris, co-founder and current VP of Business Development & Operations of Sample6, for advice on how to take an idea developed during graduate school and turn it into a biotech company.

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Topics: Career, Synthetic Biology, Career Readiness

Synthetic Biology & the Importance of Assembly Standards

Posted by Guest Blogger on Jul 8, 2014 11:06:00 AM

The field of synthetic biology has seen tremendous growth in recent years. At Addgene, synthetic biology deposits have grown exponentially, from just 2 plasmids in 2005 to 439 plasmids deposited last year. To shed some light on this growing field, we asked our friends at iGEM to share their expertise and discuss the importance of standards in the field.

The following post was contributed by Kim de Mora, iGEM Fellow.

What is Synthetic Biology?

“What I cannot create, I do not understand.” – Richard Feynman

This Feynman quote perfectly embodies the aims of synthetic biology in a single sentence. During the history of humanity, some of the most complex devices we have constructed are nuclear submarines, the space shuttle, the international space station and the Internet. But in all our existence, we have yet to design, engineer and build a cell from the ground up. A single bacterial cell is orders of magnitude more complex that the aforementioned feats of mechanical, aeronautical, electrical and computer engineering. These devices could be built because the underlying physical model of how the world works is understood by scientists and applied by engineers to practical ends.

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Topics: Plasmid Technology, Synthetic Biology

Designer PUF Proteins for Any RNA Target

Posted by Kendall Morgan on Jun 17, 2014 3:57:00 PM

With the meteoric rise of CRISPR technology, the ability to direct enzymes – from nucleases to transcription factors – to specific sequences of DNA has become commonplace. This ability has opened up a world of possibilities in the engineering of complex gene networks. A comparable system for targeting specific sequences of RNA is highly desirable for extending the complexity of genetic circuits, allowing for tighter spatio-temporal control of gene expression within a cell. Thanks to the work of Huimin Zhao and colleagues, we now have just the tool…designer PUF proteins!

A newly available PUF Assembly Kit makes it possible to devise RNA binding proteins to hit any target of interest. The new tool was developed and implemented by applying the Golden Gate cloning method to human proteins known as Pumilio/fem-3 mRNA binding factors (PUF). In a single step, researchers can now assemble designer PUF domains for RNA specificity engineering.

“The RNA binding domain is interesting because by changing certain amino acids you can change the specificity,” explained Zhanar Abil of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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Topics: Plasmid Technology, Synthetic Biology, Plasmid Kits

Interview: Nicola Patron on Plant Synthetic Biology, MoClo, and More

Posted by Kendall Morgan on Jun 12, 2014 11:30:00 AM

Nicola Patron is Head of Synthetic Biology at the Sainsbury Laboratory, where she often feels more like an engineer than a biologist. Their focus at the lab is on plant-pathogen interactions, and her aim is to produce constructs and edit genomes so as to make plants, and agricultural crops in particular, resistant to disease. They also devise biosensors designed to elucidate the molecular interactions that go on between plants and their pathogens.

As Patron explains it, her work has always been focused on gene transfer, from transgenes to plants, chloroplast to the nucleus, or pathogens to their hosts. I spoke with her about what motivates her research, the MoClo Kit she and Sylvestre Marillonnet share with the scientific community via Addgene, the struggles of plant scientists and how they work to overcome them, and why she spends some of her time engaging with others on Twitter, among other things.

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Topics: Plasmid Technology, Scientific Sharing, Synthetic Biology, Plant Biology, Plasmid Kits

Story of a SynBio Startup: RevBio's Epiphany (or Lack Thereof)

Posted by Guest Blogger on Jun 5, 2014 11:32:00 AM

This post was contributed by Nikolai Braun and Keira Havens, co-founders of Revolution Bioengineering. 

Last year we started a company. Revolution Bioengineering is two responsible adults in their 30s who have quit their academic science careers in order to head to Ireland and take a chance as entrepreneurs. To make things more interesting, we are working in a new technical discipline that nobody understands (synthetic biology), building a product no one has ever seen before (flowers that change color throughout the day) and doing this with very little money. So when did inspiration strike us so hard that we upended our lives and took this daring risk? What moment changed our whole outlook on the possibilities in life for employment? 

It never happened – there was never a “moment”. But there were a lot of very small steps.

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Topics: Career, Synthetic Biology, Career Readiness

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