Early user of Venter's DNA synthesizer reports saving time, money

J. Craig Venter

Feedback from an early-access program for Synthetic Genomics' personal DNA workstation has started to emerge. And the initial news is positive, with a researcher at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), reporting that the device is cutting the time and money it takes to synthesize DNA.

SGI-DNA--a subsidiary of the Synthetic Genomics business J. Craig Venter co-founded in 2005--made its BioXp system available as part of an early-access program two weeks ago. The idea behind the $50,000 system is to give researchers the ability to make DNA in their own laboratories without going through the traditional cloning, amplification and copying process. Instead, sequences are loaded into BioXp which then uses the information to turn reagents into synthetic DNA fragments.

Automating the process is reportedly making deep dents in the cost of producing synthetic DNA. "I haven't done the math exactly, but I imagine it would cut costs down in half, at least," UCSF Center for Advanced Technology Director Eric Chow told U-T San Diego. Chow attributed the savings to the time it takes to synthesize DNA using BioXp. While the cost per DNA fragment is greater when using BioXp, the machine's ability to produce molecules faster and more accurately offsets the upfront outlay.

The feedback is a positive early step on the long road to establishing the role of BioXp in the synthetic biology research process. SGI-DNA is looking to participants in the early-access program to support this process by detailing how they are using BioXp and what other functions they can envisage for the technology. If BioXp-like technology takes off, researchers will have the option to move away from relying on service providers for DNA fragments and instead perform the work in their own labs.

- read U-T San Diego's article