3D model of DNA isolating a section with data visualization overlay
3D model of DNA isolating a section with data visualization overlay
 
 

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SYNTHETIC BIOLOGY LIFE-SAVING SOLUTIONS


What if we could combine physics with biology and rapidly develop new and affordable, individualized medications on the surface of a silicon chip for the treatment of cancer, metabolic disorders, and infectious diseases? Now imagine if this breakthrough technology could harness the power of nature and offer pathways to address humanity’s most critical challenges in medicine, manufacturing, and agriculture.

Synthetic biology is not a far-off fantasy of science fiction but a revolutionary new interdisciplinary technology aiming to make biology easier to engineer. The technology is a convergence of advances in chemistry, biology, computer science, and engineering for the design and fabrication of biological components, solutions, and systems that do not exist in the natural world. Synthetic biology can be thought of as a biology-based toolkit that uses abstraction, standardization, and automated construction to change how we build biological systems and expand the range of possible products1.

Evonetix is reimagining biology and developing a radically different approach to synthesizing long-chain DNA at unprecedented accuracy and scale. The biotech startup is on a mission to advance global population health by facilitating the fast-growing field of synthetic biology and improving the quality, speed, and cost of developing synthetic biological solutions such as life-saving vaccines.

To fast-track development and bring its advanced platform to market, Evonetix needed a partner with deep domain knowledge, as well as biosensor solution, MEMS processing, and semiconductor microfabrication expertise. Evonetix selected Analog Devices, Inc. (ADI) and its innovation center, the Analog Garage, to help make its vision a reality and place DNA synthesis in the hands of every researcher across the globe.

AT A GLANCE

COMPANY

Evonetix, a Cambridge, U.K.-based biotech startup, is a synthetic biology company developing a desktop platform for scalable, high fidelity and rapid gene synthesis.

APPLICATIONS

Novel life-saving drug discovery and development, therapeutic molecule design and synthesis, and precision medicine and diagnostics.

CHALLENGES

Fast track development, scale-up, and commercialization of an affordable, plug and play, desktop DNA writer platform. Create a minimum viable product (MVP) by early 2022.

GOAL

Enable scientists in laboratories around the world to rapidly synthesize long-chain DNA and advance global population health.

CONVENTIONAL DNA SYNTHESIS

For over 30 years, DNA has been synthesized by constructing individual strands and then combining them to create longer double-stranded DNA. Current techniques are slow and include random errors, requiring time-consuming further analysis and sequencing to ensure acceptable quality. As a result, the process inhibits the rapid development of new drug treatments and the advancement of healthcare.

EVONETIX BIOSYNTHESIS

Evonetix’s proposed proprietary approach is to develop a platform that integrates physics with biology, regulating the synthesis of DNA at many thousands of independently controlled miniaturized reaction sites on the surface of a silicon chip.

3D model of a grey silicon chip on a green surface
Silicon chip
3D model of minaturized reaction site on chip
Miniaturized reaction sites on chip
3D model of synthesis of long-chain DNA
Synthesis of long-chain DNA
3D model of error identification and removal in DNA chains
Identifying and removing errors

Following synthesis, a breakthrough process will identify and remove errors, providing accuracy several orders of magnitude better than conventional methods. Synthetic DNA technology provides personalized, individualized medicine that enables medical professionals to make more informed and accurate patient care decisions.

COLLABORATING TO ACHIEVE AGGRESSIVE GOALS

As part of ADI’s ongoing exploration of the biotech startup landscape, it reached out to Evonetix to investigate new technologies, build new capabilities, and develop emerging business opportunities. ADI’s biosensor solution expertise, advanced MEMS processing, and unique semiconductor microfabrication capability are three critical components required by Evonetix to achieve its vision for rapid biosynthesis. The three technologies help to enable drug discovery at an accelerated pace.

In January of 2019, Evonetix began a collaboration with ADI’s internal incubator and innovation center, the Analog Garage. The collaboration will fast track the development and scale-up of Evonetix’s desktop DNA writer toward commercialization and the first product. An aggressive goal was set: complete the development of an MVP by early 2022.

“The collaboration with Evonetix provides ADI an opportunity to enter the growing synthetic biology market,” said Patrick O’Doherty, SVP of Digital Healthcare, Analog Devices.

Headshot of Patrick O'Doherty, Senior Vice President of Digital Healthcare at Analog Devices
“Our work together is aimed at increasing the speed and reducing the cost of gene assembly to provide novel strategies that can be used to produce affordable medications and treat a wide range of diseases globally.”

Patrick O’Doherty

Senior Vice President of Digital Healthcare | Analog Devices

THE ANALOG GARAGE

“The Analog Garage brings together engineers, data scientists, and hardware and software people from leading research universities and deep tech startups,” said Patrick O’Doherty. “Many have Ph.D.s in signal processing, machine learning, or materials science—nontraditional skillsets for a typical semiconductor company—and are motivated to create new solutions and breakthrough technologies in a fast-moving, startup atmosphere.”

“The Garage R&D team applies science, algorithms, data, and their creativity to deliver solutions to our customers’ most challenging problems. We are always on the lookout for great people and companies to join us in building world-changing solutions,” said Pat Coady, Division General Manager, Analog Garage.

Zoomed in view of a microchip being adjusted with tweezers
Evonetix is working with Analog Garage to jointly develop an integrated solution that includes the MEMS platform, an application specific integrated circuit (ASIC) to miniaturize the control electronics and flow cell.

Evonetix is currently running tests with ADI’s test-chip sensor structures, and over the next two years, will do more experiments, evaluations, and validations. The final chip is not yet fully developed. ADI will manage the commercial scale-up and will manufacture devices for the desktop DNA writer. ADI plans to manufacture the sensor chip as soon as the development phase is complete.

Headshot of Matthew Hayes, Chief Technology Office at Evonetix
“The support and expertise of the Analog Garage R&D team has been invaluable in helping us to design a complex control ASIC, and we now look forward to expanding our partnership to achieve the commercial scale-up of our platform.”

Dr. Matthew Hayes

Chief Technology Officer, Evonetix

Evonetix Plug and Play Desktop Device

Artist concept of the proposed Evonetix desktop device
Artist concept of the proposed Evonetix desktop device

Evonetix DNA writer will be a plug and play desktop instrument, easy to acquire and use. It will support multiple functionalities and applications through single-use, application-specific cartridges that contain the bulk of complexity and enable highly parallel synthesis.

Evonetix’s first product is expected to move into beta testing by the end of 2021. After that, ADI and Evonetix will continue to work together to increase the speed of gene assembly, improve efficiency and accuracy, and reduce costs.

“Partnering with ADI is a significant step forward in our mission to develop a highly parallel desktop platform to accurately synthesize DNA at scale.”

Dr. Matthew Hayes

Chief Technology Officer, Evonetix

THE HUMAN IMPACT

Woman with glasses in a lab inserting fluid into a test tube

Fighting Pandemics

At the time of writing, there is no approved vaccine or cure for the COVID-19 infection. But researchers around the world are working diligently with the technology they possess in search of a solution. The expectation is that COVID-19 will be defeated, but for the moment, the future remains uncertain.

The final development and commercialization of Evonetix’s breakthrough desktop platform is perhaps beyond the window of playing a significant role in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Evonetix’s vital and radically different approach to gene synthesis may play a significant role in the battle against the next pandemic, and the ones after that. The technology holds great promise for the future, enabling researchers worldwide the ability to develop life-saving drugs and vaccines—quickly, accurately, and cost-effectively.

The Far and Wide Human Impact

DNA synthesis offers the potential for novel strategies for the production of affordable medications and the treatment of disorders and diseases. The opportunities available to synthetic biology are as diverse as pharmaceuticals and drug discovery, advanced biofuels, industrial biotech, specialty chemicals, renewables, agriculture, and materials science. It may help reduce our dependency on petroleum, halt the spread of infectious diseases, and feed the nutritional requirements of a hungry world.

Rapid and accurate gene synthesis accelerates scientists’ ability to use biology on a scale not possible through other means. The technology derived from the collaboration between Evonetix and ADI offers pathways to address humanity's biggest challenges and to create a better, safer, and healthier planet and population.


1Engineering Biology Research Consortium.