OPX Biotechnologies, a new company dedicated to enabling economically viable biofuels and biorefined chemicals through the genetic engineering of microbes, has secured $3.6 million in venture funding led by MDV (Mohr Davidow Ventures). OPX also appointed Robert B. Chess as Chairman and CEO and established its board of directors.
OPX, founded off the work of University of Colorado professors Ryan Gill and Michael Lynch, uses a first-of-its-kind, massively parallel, full genome search technology platform known as SCALEs (SCalar Analysis of Library Enrichments). SCALEs allows researchers to find and identify causative genes and then test gene modifications to achieve the characteristics needed for specific fuel and chemical products 1,000 to 5,000 times faster than conventional methods, according to the company.
With SCALES, genomic DNA fragmented to several specific sizes is ligated into vectors creating several libraries with defined insert sizes. These libraries are then individually transformed into the cell line used for selections. The pools of transformants are mixed and subjected to selection.
Only clones bearing plasmids with insert increasing fitness survive. Enriched plasmids are purified from the selected population, prepared for hybridization and then applied to a microarray. After analyzing the microarray signal, the processed signal is treated as a function of sequence position. A nonlinear multiscale decomposition gives the signal not only as a function of position but also as a function of scale or library size.
The ability to understand rapidly the workings of microbes at the individual gene level and test a huge number of modifications simultaneously enables the engineering of new microbes that can provide major improvements in tolerance, productivity, and specificity for fuel and chemical production.
OPX has the potential to address one of the great challenges of our time—meeting the tremendous demand for renewable fuels and chemicals that are cost competitive and superior to petroleum-based products with far lower carbon emissions. Their proprietary, first of its kind massively parallel, full genome search and gene modification technology platform is a major breakthrough in synthetic biology that could vastly reduce the time it takes to design the microbes needed for economically viable biofuels and biorefined chemicals.—Erik Straser, MDV general partner
MDV led this second round of financing with X/Seed Capital and Rob Chess also participating. OPX received seed financing from X/Seed in June, 2007.
Rob Chess also serves as Chairman of Nektar Therapeutics, a company that develops improved pharmaceutical products using its innovative drug delivery platforms. The OPX Board of Directors includes MDV’s Erik Straser, X/Seed’s Michael Borrus, Professor Ryan Gill, a co-founder of the company and the Patten Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering at University of Colorado, and Rob Chess as Chairman and CEO.
Michael D Lynch, Tanya Warnecke & Ryan T Gill. “SCALEs: multiscale analysis of library enrichment”. Nature Methods - 4, 87 - 93 (2007) Published online: 12 November 2006; | doi:10.1038/nmeth946