Zymergen looks to marry synthetic biology, new materials and machine learning to create a million new genomes

Dr. Zach Serber, co-founder of Zymergen, explains his company’s efforts to marry synthetic biology, machine learning and materials science to endow microbes with new genetic programs for creating impossible materials with novel and valuable properties. He spoke at DARPA’s “Wait, What? A Future Technology Forum” on Sept. 9, 2015.

Zymergen has a flexible platform to engineer a wide variety of industrially-relevant microbes and improve the economics of new and existing products made via industrial fermentation.

Improving Existing Processes

Zymergen work with our partners to improve the economics of their industrially-fermented products by reducing manufacturing costs and/or increasing revenue. We typically begin with their existing production strains and build upon improvements our partners have already made. Modifying the current production strain helps ensure that process modifications reduce cost and avoid additional capital infrastructure. Progress against process-improvement targets is steady, predictable and trackable. Strains that confer improved economics are shipped to our partners on a routine, agreed-upon schedule.

Video on Impossible Materials

* Rubber was the first major impossible material from 500 years ago. It was far more elastic than anything of its density in the past.
* Rubber was a key material in the industrial revolution
* not much happened in materials for 400 years
* there was an explosion in new materials in the last 100 years (kevlar, plastics etc…)
* there was another slowdown in materials at the end of the 20th century. Kevlar is from 1965 but is considered cutting edge.
* Zymergen is looking beyond petrochemical building blocks
* they are looking at 360 bio candidates for potential impossible materials

An integrated approach to biology

Zymergen is taking a data-driven approach to biology, enabling our engineers to uncover solutions faster and more effectively than ever before

The Design-Build-Test-Analyze cycle guides our work as we improve the performance of the microbes we engineer. By bringing together the most advanced techniques in biology with the latest in automation and computation we work in high-throughput to engineer and evaluate thousands of strains in parallel. Our results guide our next set of experiments.

Robotics for High Throughput Biology

Key to Zymergen approach is the fact that we automate every step of the process, removing guesswork and human error that exists when scientists are left to do these experiments by hand. Zymergen’s robots – and the protocols we created to control them – have enabled us to build and test thousands of strains with resources typically required to build and test tens of strains, fueling breakthroughs far more quickly and predictably

SOURCES -DARPA, Zymergen, Youtube