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Amyris awarded $8M DARPA Living Foundries contract

Renewable fuels and chemicals company Amyris, Inc. has been awarded a contract from the US Department of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) under its Living Foundries program solicitation (earlier post) to develop tools that can expand the scope of Amyris's industrial synthetic biology technology platform across various biological platforms and cell types.

The contract is worth approximately $8 million in funds to Amyris, conditioned on meeting certain technical milestones in connection with the DARPA’s Living Foundries research program, announced in 2011. The Living Foundries program aims to create a rapid, reliable manufacturing capability in which multiple cellular functions can be fabricated, mixed and matched on demand and the whole system controlled by integrated circuitry, opening up the full space of biologically produced materials and systems.

DARPA issued a Broad Agency Announcement (DARPA-BAA-11-60) in September 2011 for innovative research proposals to develop new tools, technologies and methodologies to transform biology into an engineering practice. The agency’s goal is to enable the rapid development of previously unattainable technologies and products, leveraging biology to solve challenges associated with production of new materials, novel capabilities, fuel and medicines.

As an example cited in the BAA, one motivating, widespread and currently intractable problem is that of corrosion/materials degradation, which costs the US Department fo Defense (DoD) nearly $23 billion per year. Living Foundries, with its ability to program and engineer biology, may enable the capability to design and engineer systems to rapidly and dynamically prevent, seek out, identify and repair corrosion/materials degradation, DARPA said. Ultimately, Living Foundries aims to enable on-demand production of new and high-value materials, devices and capabilities for the Department of Defense (DoD).

The BAA focused on the development of the component, advanced tools and capabilities for rapidly engineering new biological systems. Example areas of interest included: design and automation tools; modular genetic parts and devices; standardized test platforms and chassis; tools for rapid physical construction; editing and manipulation of genetic designs; and new characterization and debugging tools for synthetic networks.

Amyris’ cutting edge technology platform has been used to produce a life-saving anti-malarial drug as well as renewable fuels and chemicals. In support of DARPA’s ‘Living Foundries’ program, we will leverage our technology expertise to develop improved DNA assembly and rapid integration across complex biological platforms

—John Melo, Amyris President & CEO

DARPA has already made a number of awards under the BAA, including:

  • $3,195,958 to Stanford University
  • $907,269 to Harvard University
  • $964,587 to J. Craig Venter Institute, Inc (JCVI)
  • $3,007,321 to J. Craig Venter Institute, Inc (JCVI)
  • $1,020,234 to Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution
  • $2,155,000 to Caltech
  • $691,559 to University of Texas at Austin
  • $3,628,291 to MIT
  • $2,260,237 to MIT


  • DARPA-BAA-11-60: Living Foundries: Advanced Tools and Capabilities for Generalizable Platforms (ATCG)


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