Saving Time, Money in the Quest for Health and Energy Solutions

Researchers at medical, biotechnical, and bioenergy companies use decades-old, time consuming approaches to clone DNA. In 2010, constructing a combinatorial protein library with 243 constructs cost an estimated $125,000 and took 11 months with traditional cloning. Direct DNA synthesis, while providing results in about 2 months, cost $538,000.

Researchers at the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI), a multi-institutional research center led by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, initially developed j5 software to automate the construction of biofuels pathways from DNA building blocks. Researchers then created a modular technology applicable to a wide range of biotechnical applications that improved the accuracy, scalability and cost effectiveness of DNA synthesis. With j5, a 243-construct combinatorial protein library can be built for $30,000 in less than 2 months allowing companies to achieve their goals more rapidly, whether designing new medications, understanding the nature of disease, or developing new microorganisms for bioenergy solutions.

The j5 software was copyrighted and patent application was filed to protect the IP. The j5 was made available, at no cost, to government, nonprofit and academic research centers and today over 1,300 researchers working in 378 non-commercial institutions use the software. Recognizing the business potential for a technology that saves significant time and resources in the multibillion-dollar DNA synthesis market, startup TeselaGen licensed j5 and related software in 2011.TeselaGen has signed a multi-year deal with chemical industry leader Genomatica to speed development of organisms used in making chemicals from renewable feedstocks. The startup also teamed with Redbiotec to build a vaccine library that could lead to new or more effective vaccines against shingles, chickenpox and related illnesses.