BioFAB: The World’s First Biological Design-Build Facility for Synthetic Biology
The NSF-funded Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center (SynBERC), based at the University of California-Berkeley, has launched the world’s first biotechnology design and build facility, known as the BioFab. The facility will produce tens of thousands of high-quality standard biological parts each year that will be available for free to academic and commercial users.
BioFab will lower the cost and development time of synthetic biology projects for academic and industry biotech laboratories. BioFab’s effort to characterize thousands of control elements critical to the engineering of microbes will enable researchers to mix and match parts in synthetic organisms to produce new drugs, fuels, or chemicals.
Unlike more mature fields, biotechnology lacks the equivalent of even the simplest machine shop to be used in service of specific applications. DNA design and construction is still developing and has not yet been organized and integrated in support of agile and rapid systems prototyping.
The BioFab facility is developing an open membership architecture so that additional universities, companies, and non-profits can readily partner and sponsor the BioFab via grants, direct gifts, and in-kind donations. Life Technologies, Inc. is the first founding industrial partner and sponsor, with other companies expected to quickly follow. The BioBricks Foundation, a not-for-profit, is lending its expertise in biotechnology law and standards. SynBERC is also working with colleagues in Europe to secure funding to launch a sister facility in the U.K.