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A vaccine printer at your local drugstore? We are making it happen

December 16, 2020

You probably know Telesis Bio as the developer of the world’s first and only automated benchtop solution for generating gene fragments, clones, and libraries. While we’re incredibly proud of what we’ve accomplished so far, our mission goes well beyond streamlining synthetic biology workflows leveraged by laboratories seeking to address critical health and environmental challenges like vaccines and therapeutics, as well as biofuels.

Here’s the bigger vision: a global network of self-contained systems that can print life-saving medical treatments, starting from information delivered digitally. This Digital-to-biological converter (DBC) would be pre-stocked with reagents needed to synthesize genetic material — DNA, RNA, proteins, etc. — and would take digitized DNA code sent over the internet and automatically print and assemble vaccines. The entire process is expected to produce more than 500 vaccine doses within 48 hours, a drastic improvement over the six to nine months required today.

Sound like sci-fi? Yeah, we know. But most of the technology needed for the DBC already exists. It’s based on our BioXp™ 3250 system — the world’s only fully automated synthetic biology workstation — which already performs most of the steps required to print vaccines as part of a DBC network. In fact, our team is predicting that a commercially available DBC could be ready in the next 18 to 24 months.

Here’s how our co-founder Dan Gibson describes it: “The DBC came out of work we did combating the H7N9 bird flu back in 2013. The success we had printing DNA led us to begin thinking about emailing DNA for rapid vaccine development. If we could send instructions to a system that had all of the chemical compounds, software, and processes needed to build biology, we could read the genome of a virus actively circulating in a region, and in a matter of days, use the DBC to create a vaccine where it’s needed most, and prevent a global pandemic.” (Dan also presented this concept in a very cool TED talk.)

Of course, COVID-19 has given us more motivation than ever to get the DBC technology up and running. We see this as a highly effective way of responding to emerging pathogens. With a global network of , it will be possible to dramatically accelerate the development and delivery of “on-demand” vaccines anywhere in the world. The instantaneous electronic exchange of sequence data — followed by local gene synthesis and vaccine production — will replace the cumbersome isolation and shipment of viruses and nucleic acids between geographically dispersed sites where vaccines are manufactured. Also, by stocking platforms with all of the materials needed for vaccine synthesis, the DBC network will overcome many of the supply chain challenges that have been revealed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Our CEO Todd R. Nelson puts it this way: “With the DBC, we will have the ability to beam new vaccines to where they’re needed most in order to save hundreds of thousands of lives from emerging infectious diseases. This technology has the capability to contain outbreaks to within a ZIP code.”

In addition to actively developing the DBC, Telesis Bio is seeking partners who wish to advance and embed this platform technology into their vaccine and drug development workflows to enable on-demand DNA and RNA synthesis. Contact us at to learn more.

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