Cork set for country’s first DNA foundry

The country’s first DNA foundry will have a transformative effect on Ireland’s scientific and business landscape when it opens in Cork in the coming months.

Indian biotechnology company Helixworks Technologies is set to open the country’s first foundry, which will allow researchers much quicker access to DNA at a fraction of the cost, having taken up lab space near University College Cork.

The three-person team has decided to make Ireland home after participating in the IndieBio synthetic biology accelerator programme.

The initiative has run in Cork for each of the last three years.

IndieBio founder Bill Liao said the establishment of a DNA foundry will dramatically alter the landscape of Irish research and “catapult” the country to the next level.

“If you want to go and get some DNA, you either have to knit it by yourself in your own lab by hand or you have to send away to China or the US to actually get it made in a foundry and these guys are actually setting up a DNA foundry here in Cork — the first in Ireland and the most cost-effective in Europe.

“They’ve got a new technology that allows them to make the DNA, instead of letter by letter, word by word.

“The amazing thing is that if you want to get DNA made here; if you order it, it could take between one and three weeks to get made and sent back to you.

"These guys are going to be offering close to overnight turn-around for any lab in Ireland or any biomaker in Ireland to get their DNA done. This is a huge enabler for the whole country.

“When you’re creating new DNA, it’s like creating software or technology. There’s a design-test-build loop and if you have to wait a month every time you need to make a change in the design of your DNA you can imagine how many years it takes to get something done.

“Whereas if you can get it done overnight, that’s just a complete gamechanger. It could really catapult the whole of Ireland a quantum leap ahead,” Mr Liao said.

Helixworks will be able to guarantee a three-day turnaround globally, making them the fastest in the business, and will provide DNA at prices up to nine times cheaper than is currently available.

The Indian biotech company is one of 13 participants on this year’s IndieBio programme which was the first of its kind worldwide when it began three years ago.

IndieBio has since expanded with a sister programme running twice yearly in San Francisco while other synthetic biology accelerators have also popped up in the last number of years.

Mr Liao said the Irish programme has seen a significant uptick in demand for places which he hopes will enable it to run twice yearly, as in San Francisco.


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