DNA2.0 Awarded DARPA Bioengineering Grant

Menlo Park, CA
Monday, September 27, 2004

DNA2.0, Inc. (www.DNA20.com), a leader in custom gene synthesis and protein engineering, has been awarded a Phase 1 follow-up grant by DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) for its Mobile Integrated Sustainable Energy Recovery (MISER) program. The focus of the research is the engineering of fuel-latent plastics and their post-use conversion to a fuel useful for electricity generation in the field.

MISER’s goal is to improve the logistics of land-based operations by reducing the quantities of solid waste from packaging materials that require personnel, fuel, and critical transport equipment for removal. Plastic packaging has energy content that approaches that of diesel fuel. The DARPA grant is designed specifically to achieve nearly complete plastic packaging waste reduction while harnessing 90 percent of the packaging energy content for use in electricity generation.

“Plastic waste is ubiquitous, degrades extremely slowly and is a major pollutant even in remote ocean areas. Key issues with current biodegradable plastics are that they must have comparable physical properties to the plastics they seek to replace,” said Jeremy Minshull, PhD, president at DNA2.0. “We are delighted to be working with Professor Gross of Polytechnic University, New York. He is a pioneer of the interface between biology and polymer chemistry, and his expertise is a perfect complement to DNA2.0’s.” Professor Gross is the primary recipient of the grant and is responsible for the design and testing of the polymer, while DNA2.0 will design and develop the enzymes used for the biological route to production. The polymer will have properties similar to polyethylene and will be prepared from renewable resources with a cost comparable to current commercially manufactured plastics. Best of all, they will have the potential for a second use as fuels.

The development of a biological route to synthesis of these polymers requires engineering of several enzymes. DNA2.0’s DeNovo Genes protein engineering technology uses protein sequence mining methods and machine learning algorithms to design small numbers of variants that are tested directly for commercially relevant protein properties. By quantifying the contributions of individual amino acids to the desired activity, further improved variants are then designed. “DNA2.0’s unique technology allows us to avoid imprecise surrogate screens and instead use highly sensitive methods to detect the products of enzyme catalysis that we care about for commercial application,” said Professor Richard Gross. “This will ensure that that we engineer enzymes that produce precisely the right molecules for building these revolutionary polymers.”

DNA2.0 a biotechnology company is the developer of two platform technologies, the DNA-2-Go gene synthesis process and DeNovo Genes, a protein engineering and sequence optimization technology. The firm’s charter is to exploit the synergy between a highly efficient gene synthesis process and new protein optimization technologies.



"The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency" is the central research and development organization for the Department of Defense. It manages and directs selected basic and applied research and development projects for the DoD and pursues research and technology where risk and payoff are both very high and where success may provide dramatic advances U.S. technology. DARPA’s mission is to maintain the technological superiority of the U.S. and prevent technological surprise from harming national security. For more information, visit DARPA online at - http://www.darpa.mil


About Professor Richard Gross

The primary recipient of this Phase 1 follow-up grant and the original seed grant is Professor Richard Gross of Polytechnic University, New York. Professor Gross was awarded the 2003 Presidential Green Chemistry Award and is the founder and head of the National Science Foundation Center for Biocatalysis and Bioprocessing of Macromolecules, of which DNA2.0 is a member.

About DNA2.0, Inc.

DNA2.0 is applying its DNA-2-Go custom genes synthesis process and its DeNovo Genes platform technology to design and produce information-rich gene variants. These gene variants are synthesized individually and then tested for functional activity. The data is analyzed and mapped as a mega dimensional projection of the correlated sequence-function space. The DeNovo Genes technology is uniquely suited to engineering proteins for commercial applications such as industrial biocatalysis and healthcare products such as therapeutic proteins and diagnostic reagents. For more information please visit www.DNA20.com or email info@DNA20.com.