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Synthetic Biology Firm Gen9 Raises $25M

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Synthetic biology firm Gen9 has raised $25 million in a private financing round, its president and CEO confirmed to GenomeWeb Daily News.

The company disclosed the financing in a document filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission last week. Gen9 President and CEO Kevin Munelly told GWDN in an email today that proceeds from the financing will be used to "expand our team and advance additional products and services that will further accelerate the design-build-test cycle for our customers."

He said existing investors participated in the round but declined to identify them. In April 2013, Agilent invested $21 million in Gen9. The $25 million financing is in addition to Agilent's investment, Munnelly said.

Gen9 was founded in 2009 by Joseph Jacobson of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, George Church of Harvard Medical School, and Drew Endy of Stanford University. According to the company's website, it is focused on "high-quality, high-throughput, automated production of DNA constructs," and its technology "allows for the lowest cost and highest quality DNA constructs commercially available."

Its flagship technology platform, called BioFab, is based on work by its founders, who developed a semiconductor-based instrument for the massively parallel construction of DNA constructs. Their technology, Gen9 said, involves a novel error correction method that uses oligos or proteins to detect mistakes, making it possible to build longer stretches of DNA with higher accuracy.

Gen9 has sought to develop the technology into a robust and scalable platform, and the BioFab instrument can now generate tens of thousands of synthetic gene fragments per year. Additionally, capacity can be added on a logarithmic, rather than a linear scale, allowing the company to "offer long, error-free stretches of DNA in large volumes at affordable prices," it said.

"We are pleased with the ongoing support from our investors, and this financing bolsters our capital position as we continue to build the leading DNA synthesis company for the synthetic biology marketplace," Munnelly said. "Gen9 aims to realize the full potential of synthetic biology by taking it from an R&D-focused activity to a robust and reliable component of the manufacturing process."

In addition to the financing, Cambridge, Mass.-based Gen9 today announced the launch of its Variant Libraries product, which allows researchers to test DNA variant combinations and examine structure-function relationships.