Gen9 joins synthetic genome project to build yeast 2.0

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Gen9 Inc., a Cambridge company specializing in gene synthesis, said Wednesday that it has been selected to take part in the Synthetic Yeast Project Sc2.0, organized and hosted by the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

The Synthetic Yeast Project aims to use yeast, S. cerevisiae, as the basis for a new synthetic life form, Sc2.0, that can be used to answer a wide variety of questions about the fundamental properties of chromosomes, genome organization, gene content, the function of RNA splicing, and questions relating to genome structure and evolution, Gen9 said in a press release. Members of the project will design, build, and assemble synthetic yeast chromosomes.

“We are pleased to be taking part in this visionary project with the goal of designing a synthetic organism that may ultimately be important in bioremediation, ethanol production, and other innovative uses,” Gen9 chief executive Kevin Munnelly said in a statement. “This is an excellent example of how our novel BioFab platform and capability to produce long stretches of high-quality, synthetic DNA can be applied in making a valuable contribution to the yeast project and to synthetic biology as a whole.”

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Earlier this year, Gen9 received a $21 million investment from Agilent Technologies Inc. of California, a $6.9 billion company focused on chemical analysis, life sciences, diagnostics, electronics, and communications, a Business Update post from April noted. Agilent said then that its partnership with Gen9 complements Agilent’s existing investments in synthetic biology and gene synthesis. Agilent is taking an equity stake in Gen9.