This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I project proposes to develop a software technology that comprises a rapid screening and functional testing system for Synthetic Biology. Wedding recent advances in DNA assembly methods, and the software algorithms used to design those DNA assemblies, the goal is to create an easy-to-use platform for assembling complex DNA constructs, transfecting them into host microbes, and doing a rapid assessment of their function. The proposed technology is a foundational tool that will facilitate construction of complex DNA assemblies and combinatorial libraries, allowing scientists to direct their resources to conducting experiments that address primary issues.
The broader impact/commercial potential of this project will be to accelerate the pace of microbe development for companies and organizations that develop valuable proteins, advanced enzymes for industry, or therapeutic medicines. DNA cloning is an everyday practice in the course of both industrial- and university-based research. Cloning technology as has remained largely unchanged for the last 20 years. As a consequence, researchers waste time and money designing and constructing DNA, which could be applied to designing and conducting experiments. Over the past few years, standardized experimental DNA construction methods have been developed that lend themselves well to automation and rapid assembly of DNA. Process automation is progressing from luxury to necessity, as target applications demand the fabrication of large combinatorial DNA libraries in the search for better antibodies, faster enzymes, and more productive microbial strains. After the construction of the DNA libraries, screening these libraries for constructs with the desired activities remains a bottleneck, both in terms of cost and time. The proposed technology will allow rapid prototyping and characterization of forward engineered biological libraries of recombinant DNA, proteins or whole cells. The commercial availability of this technology will provide a low cost alternative to current methods.