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Groundbreaking Genome Foundry places Concordia at the forefront of synthetic biology

The facility uses robots to greatly increase research precision and speed
December 9, 2019
Vincent Martin: “Biofoundries are critical to deliver on the significant promise of biotechnology research.”

A pioneering facility at Concordia is delivering significant increases in the speed and scale of synthetic biology research, thanks to its use of robotic instrumentation.

The Genome Foundry was the first Canadian laboratory of its kind when it opened in August 2018 and is among only a handful of leading institutions around the world.

Synthetic biology fuses the design principles of engineering with the tools of biology to create meaningful systems. By automating notoriously labour-intensive lab procedures, the Genome Foundry eliminates bottlenecks in the rapidly evolving field.

“The Genome Foundry solidifies Concordia’s position as the Canadian leader in synthetic biology research, says Christophe Guy, vice-president of research and graduate studies.

“It enables our scientists to work at the cutting edge while facilitating partnerships with other institutions.”

Much of the lab work done by synthetic biologists involves moving and combining small amounts of liquids and cells. The Genome Foundry’s robotics allow for speed and absolute precision, greatly increasing the variety and number of experiments that can be completed, and the accuracy with which they can be reproduced.

A research platform for the future

The Genome Foundry was established with funds from the Canada Foundation for Innovation and the government of Quebec, and is part of Concordia’s synthetic biology hub along with the Centre for Applied Synthetic Biology (CASB), the SynBioApps NSERC CREATE program and the soon-to-be-inaugurated District 3 Innovation Centre science hub.

“This is a monumental addition to Canada’s synthetic biology ecosystem,” says Vincent Martin, co-director of the CASB.

“It empowers us to navigate uncharted waters alongside our international colleagues, and to incubate the future leaders of our field.”

The CASB aims to develop high-value applications in human health, agriculture, chemicals and environmental technologies. It also provides a broad range of unique opportunities — such as the SynBioApps program — for training leading experts in the field.

New global alliance

Earlier this year, Concordia and 14 other institutions from four continents cofounded the new Global Biofoundry Alliance (GBA).

Martin explains that the GBA will allow researchers to share experiences and resources, and work together to overcome common challenges and unmet scientific and engineering needs.

“Using biofoundries effectively requires a paradigm shift in how we do biological engineering. Training the next generation to effectively exploit these technologies is also extremely important,” Martin says.

“Notwithstanding these challenges, representatives from all 15 institutions agreed that biofoundries are a critical enabling technology for individual countries to develop capability and deliver on the significant promise of biotechnology research.”

Learn more about 
Concordia’s Genome Foundry.


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