3D Printer for Living Things
Many people around the world are becoming more familiar about 3D printing as a technology and its capabilities around making every day items that we can see and touch. Austen Heinz, who is the founder and CEO of Cambrian Genomics, is working on something slightly different and his company is developing hardware and systems for laser printing DNA of living organisms.
The current challenge for synthetic biology is that despite the fact that the scientists have the potential to create new organisms that can do infinite number of things, the cost of synthesizing DNA is prohibitively expensive. Presently researchers in academia and industry order or clone over a billion dollars worth of DNA each year. Austen is developing his company’s technology to tackle this and can now provide a new technique to synthesize DNA 10,000 times cheaper than any existing technology.
As he elaborates in the video below, one of the difficulties with DNA synthesis is error correction during fabrication to make the correct sequence of A, T, G and Cs – which are the building blocks of DNA. Cambrian Genomics have solved this problem by fabricating billions of strands at once, quickly and cost effectively. Their technology optically sequences the strands and then selects the correct DNA sequences using a fast moving laser.
The company’s ambitious plan is to create the “print” button for biology in order to democratise creation and enable researchers to write code for living organisms. According to Austen the applications of their technology have the potential to be used for personalised medicine, such as cancer treatments, or even bringing back extinct animals using the available DNA code recovered from the fossils.