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Robots & Machines

A New Assembly Line In London Is Making DNA

This isn't something you can buy on a shelf.

Kathleen RileyApril 6th 2016

Factories make just about anything these days. Everything from your car to the plastic tupperware containers storing your leftovers, it was all most likely made on a factory assembly line.

But there’s a factory located in South Kensington, London that is putting together something you wouldn’t see in an auto lot or supermarket aisle. The factory’s robots are collaboratively creating the building blocks of life – DNA.

The Foundry

SOURCE: Harry Campbell
SOURCE: Harry Campbell

This factory is called The Foundry, and it’s located in a basement at the Imperial College London. They recently received £2 million ($2.8 million) for their operations, where they turn DNA into biological “devices.”

These “devices” are made from harmless cells like yeast, and are used for numerous purposes such as developing new vaccines and low-carbon biofuels. The Foundry is able to conduct thousands of experiments at a time in order to design, construct, and test DNA for future devices that could solve some of our greatest global challenges. This gets rid of the time-consuming amount of pipetting biotech researchers would be doing.

“What we’re doing is now much more detailed. We’re beginning to really design and engineer biological systems. Which is, I think, a natural evolution, but it is a transformation as well,” stated professor Paul Freemont, Head of Molecular Biosciences the Imperial College London.

The Future of Synthetic Biology

The Foundry hopes to establish an open-source model that others can use in the field of synthetic biology. With a common framework, synthetic biologists can produce and test more devices.

The field of synthetic biology is on a tremendous upward trend, and the U.K. is at its forefront. With the entire human genome available to us, along with the ability to edit genes using CRISPR, The Foundry could speed up the creation of new technologies necessary in solving some of our world’s greatest issues.

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