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'Fax' It Over

Synthetic Genomics' Digital to Biological Converter is akin to a "biological fax machine," writes the Wall Street Journal.

This platform — which isn't yet commercially available — enables digital genetic codes to be used to chemically generate oligonucleotides, according to the Journal. Those nucleotides can then be combined and used to produce proteins and viruses with 75 percent accuracy in about 24 hours, it says. It adds that while that accuracy is good enough for a prototype, it's not yet high enough for real-world use.

"You can think about it as biological teleportation," Dan Gibson, vice president of DNA technology at Synthetic Genomics, tells the paper. "All the functions and characteristics of all living things are written into the code of DNA. So if you can read and write that code of DNA, then in theory it can be reproduced anywhere in the world."

The Journal adds that the Digital to Biological Converter's developers see a use for it in designing vaccines. Currently, it says, making an influenza vaccine involves growing the virus up in chicken eggs for a number of months. This tool, the developers say, could cut that step out of the process.

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