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Constructive Bio launches with $15m funding ‘to write entire genomes from scratch’





Constructive Bio, a Cambridge-based start-up producing synthetic genomes and reprogramming the genetic code of living organisms, has launched with $15million in seed investment.

Prof Jason Chin is a programme leader at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology and a fellow of the Royal Society. Picture: MRC LMB
Prof Jason Chin is a programme leader at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology and a fellow of the Royal Society. Picture: MRC LMB

The new biotechnology company, which has its base at Chesterford Research Park, is a spin-out from the laboratory of Prof Jason Chin at the Medical Research Council (MRC) Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge.

Prof Chin is currently a Programme Leader at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, where he is also head of the Centre for Chemical & Synthetic Biology (CCSB). He is Professor of Chemistry & Chemical Biology at the University of Cambridge, and holds a joint appointment at the University of Cambridge Department of Chemistry. He is also a fellow in Natural Sciences at Trinity College, Cambridge, and a fellow of the Royal Society.

Prof Chin becomes chief scientific officer at Constructive Bio, while Dr Ola Wlodek, former chief operating officer at Reflection Therapeutics and an expert in natural product biosynthesis and unnatural peptide cyclisation, has been appointed as chief executive officer.

The LMB platforms, described in a series of landmark publications (Fredens et al, Nature, 2019 and Robertson et al, Science 2021) allow the fundamental reprogramming of the genetic code, and creation of molecules that nature could not make itself.

Prof Chin said of the launch: “Over the last 20 years, we have created a cellular factory that we can reliably and predictably program to create new polymers.

Prof Jason Chin his team have synthesised the entire genome of the bacterium E. coli – only the second time an entire genome has been synthesised
Prof Jason Chin his team have synthesised the entire genome of the bacterium E. coli – only the second time an entire genome has been synthesised

“The range of applications for this technology is vast – using our approach we have already been able to program cells to make new molecules including from an important class of drugs and to program cells to make completely synthetic polymers containing the chemical linkages found in biodegradeable plastics.

“Now is the right time to commercialise these technologies. I am pleased that we have attracted significant support and seed funding to establish Constructive Bio and capture this opportunity.

“By taking inspiration from nature and reimagining what life can become we have the opportunity to build the sustainable industries of the future.”

The company was set up with support from Ahren’s Commercial Engine and with Ahren Science Partner input. The seed round was led by Ahren alongside Amadeus Capital Partners, General Inception and OMX Ventures. The funding will be used to build out the technology platforms for commercial application, including assembling synthetic genomes and synthesis of non-natural polymers using bacterial strains.

A spokesperson for Amadeus Capital Partners noted of the new technology: “In a nutshell, this will allow scientists to write entire genomes from scratch.”

Prof Jason Chin at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB) in Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell
Prof Jason Chin at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB) in Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell

The technology is based on two core proprietary platform technologies – large-scale DNA assembly and genome reprogramming. Together, they will be used by Constructive Bio to synthesise polymers with non-natural amino acids for applications across industries including novel therapeutics and antibiotics, enhanced agriculture, manufacturing and materials. The new organisms’ phage resistance can also be used to increase bio-manufacturing yields. In addition, novel polymers can be designed with the ability to break down, with the monomers recycled, offering approaches to transform industries such as the $750bn global polymers market.

Pierre Socha, partner, Amadeus Capital Partners, said: “If we think of cellular biosystems as biological factories, we need to be able to write the cell’s operating system in a rapid, accurate and affordable way. The foundational challenge then becomes how to write the DNA of whole living organisms, from scratch, to optimise the manufacturing of these bioproducts – and that’s what Constructive Bio is going after.

“By creating tools that allow us to design and program cells, we will address issues from protein-based therapeutic design, industrial and environmental sustainability, food and agriculture, to consumer care and electronics.”



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