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New synthetic biology tool transitions to private sector

Posted August 24, 2015

GenoCAD, a computer-assisted design environment for synthetic biology developed at Virginia Tech, has transitioned to GenoFAB LLC to engage new users and create new opportunities for innovation.

The web-based GenoCAD application enables users to design DNA and create expression vectors for biologics manufacturing for new medical treatments, gene therapy, plant biotechnology, and synthetic biology.

In contrast to more traditional tools that rely on cutting-and-pasting DNA sequences, GenoCAD relies on sets of rules governing how different genetic parts can be combined in order to function properly.

The rules ensure that cells can properly interpret the genetic constructs designed by GenoCAD users. In practice, this cuts the time needed to make a functional DNA construct, making the research and development process far more efficient.

“GenoCAD is now a mature platform that has outgrown the resources available in an academic environment,” said Jean Peccoud, a professor at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute, principal investigator of the GenoCAD project, and chief executive officer of GenoFAB LLC. “Instead of being a research project in itself, GenoCAD is now at a point where it becomes a resource that supports new research projects.”

With the transition to GenoFAB LLC, the platform can benefit from revenue streams unavailable to an academic research project, thereby assuring its long-term sustainability.

GenoCAD started as a research project. From 2009 to 2013, funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) covered the development of the GenoCAD software and maintenance of its underlying infrastructure. The platform was hosted in the data center of the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute.

In 2010, the GenoCAD source code was released using the Apache 2.0 license of the Apache Software Foundation with the goal of making it broadly available to the scientific community beyond the lifetime of the NSF grant.

With its point-and-click user interface, the GenoCAD system allows users to quickly design complex genetic constructs by combining selected components from a database of thousands of genetic parts.

Individual scientists and research and development teams can capture their domain expertise in the form of design rules applicable to their projects. GenoCAD’s structured workflow makes it easy to generate large number of design variants, all consistent with a set of design rules.

Source: VirginiaTech

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