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NSF grant to launch world's first open-source genetic parts production facility
Date:1/20/2010

Arkin, UC Berkeley professor of bioengineering and head of Synthetic Biology for LBNL's Physical Biosciences Division.

The BIOFAB takes its name from the fabrication, or Fab, that service laboratories established in the early semiconductor industry to make it easier for academic and small industrial labs to design and manufacture small quantities of custom chips. With computer-aided design (CAD) software, rapid-prototyping equipment and clean labs, Fab Labs could quickly produce innovative devices not yet ready for mass production.

"The professionally-staffed BIOFAB production facility will provide an essential resource that will allow many academic researchers and others to rapidly prototype, test and translate their foundational discoveries and ideas into practice," said Jay Keasling, UC Berkeley professor of chemical engineering and of bioengineering and senior faculty scientist and acting deputy director of LBNL. "By enabling everyone to better work together, the BIOFAB will make the engineering of biology easier and more predictable."

Keasling, who chairs the BIOFAB executive committee, led the project to biosynthesize artemisinin. He is now director in Emeryville, Calif., of the Department of Energy's Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI), which focuses on developing commercially viable biofuels.

Endy and Arkin proposed a similar Fab Lab for biology more than 10 years ago, but only now, Endy said, is the time ripe for an open and cooperative full-scale production facility.

"Besides Tom Knight (of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology), very few people were talking about standard biological parts 10 years ago," said Endy, while today, such parts are widely used by college students as part of the International Genetically Engineered Machine competition (iGEM), catalogued by institutions such as MIT and JBEI, and used daily in synthetic biology labs around the world.

Nevertheless, of the estimated 3,500 critic
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Contact: Robert Sanders
rsanders@berkeley.edu
510-643-6998
University of California - Berkeley
Source:Eurekalert

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