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Gene Synthesis Proligo Rules DNA Bases Lock, Stock, and Barrel


It’s still a fairly small and young company, but Proligo, with joint offices in Hamburg, Germany, and Boulder, Colo., has already declared itself indispensable in the genomics arena. With key patents in DNA synthesis, the company is a virtual gatekeeper for people looking to make primers or any other strings of As, Cs, Ts, and Gs. “We manufacture those monomers … at a multi-ton level,” says Wolfgang Pieken, president and CEO.

Pieken founded the company in 1998 as a NeXstar Technology spinout, and German firm Degussa acquired it as a subsidiary last August. Though much of Proligo’s business comes from its nucleic-acid supply line, DNA synthesis, and DNA ingredient production — particularly ribosomes and aptamers — Pieken is more enthusiastic about his new product line using proprietary locked nucleic acid, or LNA, technology that implements modified versions of each base.

“Most of the time [in DNA studies], you’re trying to discriminate, in a sequence of about 20, a single letter mismatch,” Pieken says. “If you think about native DNA, it’s really not ideally suited for such discrimination events. It’s made to perform evolution, where a certain degree of sloppiness, if you want, is a desired effect.” The Proligo solution: adding a locked monomer to a DNA sequence for confirmation use. “For each single LNA monomer incorporation, you increase the binding strength by three to five degrees Centigrade,” Pieken says. It also helps level out binding specificity on DNA chips with many sequences that have different optimal binding temperatures — making genotyping an early target application.

— Meredith Salisbury


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