Established in the mid 1970's, New England Biolabs, Inc. (NEB) is the industry leader in the discovery and production of enzymes for molecular biology applications and now offers the largest selection of recombinant and native enzymes for genomic research. NEB continues to expand its product offerings into areas related to PCR, gene expression, sample preparation for next generation sequencing, synthetic biology, glycobiology, epigenetics and RNA analysis. Additionally, NEB is focused on strengthening alliances that enable new technologies to reach key market sectors, including molecular diagnostics development. New England Biolabs is a privately held company, headquartered in Ipswich, MA, and has extensive worldwide distribution through a network of exclusive distributors, agents and seven subsidiaries located in Canada, China, France, Germany, Japan, Singapore and the UK. For more information about New England Biolabs visit neb.
After writing my recent article on custom gene synthesis, I came across an article in the excellent Seven Stones systems biology blog that highlights the potential dark side of this emerging technology. The article describes a recent Nature Biotechnology commentary by B??gl et al 2007 in which executives from the DNA synthesis industry discuss regulation of their industry in order to address biosecurity concerns.
According to ArmsControlatWork.com, a leading gene synthesis company, Blue Heron Biotechnology, claim that they could synthesise something the size of the entire polio genome in around 12 weeks. Of course, companies like Blue Heron will, and in fact have (see the ArmsControlatWork article), turn(ed) down suspicious orders, but other companies may not be so conscientious.
From this, it’s easy to see how the decoupling of gene synthesis from any sort of template requirement could simplify life for wannabe bioterrorists, especially as the technology advances. Hopefully through the proposed framework and other similar initiatives, gene synthesis can be sufficiently regulated so that this fantastically useful technology does not switch the lights out for all of us.