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Agilent Makes $21M Investment in Gen9

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Agilent Technologies has made a $21 million equity investment in synthetic biology firm Gen9, the companies announced today.

The funds will be used by the Cambridge, Mass.-based firm for product development and for expansion of its commercial infrastructure. Privately held Gen9 has developed gene synthesis technologies for high-throughput, automated production of DNA constructs at "lower cost and higher accuracy than previous methods," it said in the joint statement. It added that its BioFab platform is capable of synthesizing tens of thousands of gene fragments while taking up just a few square feet of laboratory space.

Agilent has received an undisclosed stake in the company through the investment and will also place a member on Gen9's board of directors.

In addition, as part of the relationship, Gen9 will incorporate Agilent's Oligonucleotide Library Synthesis technology into its manufacturing process, allowing for the large-scale creation of pathway constructs and DNA libraries. Gen9 currently is manufacturing and shipping its own double-stranded GeneBits DNA constructs, which are gene fragments from 500 to 1,024 base pairs long.

"Agilent's investment is a powerful validation of our proprietary BioFab platform, and we look forward to working closely with them to further innovate around our manufacturing capabilities and build Gen9 into the leading high-throughput supplier to the synthetic biology marketplace," Gen9 President and CEO Kevin Munnelly said.

For Agilent, the partnership extends its presence in the synthetic biology field. Last year the firm made an investment in UC Berkeley’s Synthetic Biology Institute and became the institute's first industry member. It previously made an investment in Harvard University's Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering in 2010.

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.

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