Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News reports that UC Berkeley and Stanford University are collaborating on a project to build a biotechnology resource called BIOFAB. This stands for International Open Facility Advancing Biotechnology. (IOFAB?) I guess the missing B stands for BYOB, or “Bring Your Own B.” What’s so fabulous about BIOFAB?
Well, genetic engineering requires all sorts of tools. There are the various parts of genes that you need, from the promoter sequence, to the terminator sequence, enhancers, repressors, not to mention the functional part of the gene itself. But then you also need the tools to get it into your target organism… and the list goes on. It takes time, research, and least of all piles of $$$ to get all these parts together to make it all work. It’s no small wonder that the only companies to successfully launch GE crops are the big ones.
But there’s a new field emerging that is much more demanding than splicing a few genes together – synthetic biology. Building new organisms means that an organismal toolkit will have to be put together. Preferably one that many people can use, free of patent restrictions that could hinder their use by academic labs and small startups. Something open-source…
The new effort, called the BIOFAB: International Open Facility Advancing Biotechnology (BIOFAB), aims to produce thousands of free, standardized DNA parts to shorten the development time and lower the cost of synthetic biology for academic or biotech laboratories. The BIOFAB has received two years of funding from the NSF and matching support from founding partners Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) and the BioBricks Foundation (BBF), a non-profit organization that supports and promotes the use of synthetic biology. (emphasis added)
The chair of BIOFAB’s executive committee, Jay Keasling, is also familiar to some of us. Shortly after receiving a very nice humanitarian award, Frank was all over him to get a photo with him. (I tried to do a video interview but the camera ran out of battery power.)
Unfortunately, there is not much information on the BIOFAB website, so the article is all we have to go off of for now. I’m interested to see what comes out of this project in the future, and what happens when open-source GE goes mainstream!
For genetically engineered crops, resources like BIOFAB and BioBricks are half the solution to blowing the market open to competition. The other half in the up to $150 million dollar price tag of bring a GE crop to market (with the majority of that spent on regulatory approval). Not sure what the answer to that part is. On the other hand, for companies genetically engineering bacteria to create complex and valuable substances in bio-reactors (which avoids most of the approvals required for growing a food crop outside of controlled environments), projects like BIOFAB must be awesome.
Also… Jay Keasling is the man!
Frank is standing on the shoulder of a giant! 🙂
Somehow I missed this post when it was published. Very interesting! I’m glad there are more and more open source or DIY biology things out there.
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