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SGI Acquires Febit's Synbio IP, Assets to 'Drastically Reduce' Gene Synthesis Cost


Synthetic Genomics said this week that it has purchased from Febit Holding GmbH the worldwide rights to three families of patents and patent applications related to gene synthesis.

As part of the deal, La Jolla, Calif.-based SGI also acquired all related know-how, equipment and technical support for the implementation of the technology, the firm said. Terms of the agreement were not discussed.

According to CEO Craig Venter, the acquisition of Febit's IP will "strengthen and accelerate" SGI's ongoing development and commercialization of a variety of products including algae-based food and nutritional products, biofuels, biochemicals, synthetic vaccines, and clean water.

Venter said in a statement that the "ability to construct accurate and inexpensive DNA, together with our current proprietary DNA assembly and genome transplantation methodologies, enable enhanced capacity to synthesize DNA and reprogram cells at a larger scale than what is currently achievable."

According to SGI, the acquired technology includes methods for highly parallelized, low-cost, chip-based oligonucleotide synthesis and retrieval of sequence-validated DNA. When paired, these technologies have the potential to "drastically reduce the cost of DNA synthesis," the firm claimed.

More specifically, the newly acquired SGI patent families include seven issued US and European patents covering methods to produce polymers, specifically double-stranded, synthetic nucleic acids from a variety of oligonucleotides on a solid support; and methods for retrieving sequence-verified synthetic nucleic acids following assembly on solid supports. SGI claimed the methods can be used to "quickly synthesize genetic components in parallel, and then selectively assemble the components having the perfect sequence into double-stranded genes and larger DNA constructs with minimal errors."

Founded in 2003, Heidelberg, Germany-based Febit initially peddled its oligo synthesis technology into biochips and instruments for gene expression and microRNA profiling. Later it expanded on this footprint by introducing a target-enrichment offering called HybSelect and founding a synthetic biology subsidiary called Febit Synbio with an eye on eventually becoming a provider of synthetic genes (BAN 5/22/2007).

However, most of the company's offerings, including its synthetic biology activities, were wound up following a restructuring in 2010 (BAN 6/29/2010).

Rechristened Comprehensive Cancer Biomarkers, the firm now offers biomarker discovery and validation services, including microarray services on the Agilent Technologies platform, as well as next-generation sequencing and quantitative PCR services on Life Technologies' Applied Biosystems SOLiD and TaqMan systems.