Zachary Sun has been developing fundamental synthetic biology technologies since 2006, and has published work on MAGE genomic engineering in Nature and on a cell-free prototyping environment in eLife. The latter forms the basis for Tierra Biosciences (formerly Synvitrobio). Sun is a NDSEG Fellow, a DARPA Rising participant, and part of the UCLA/Caltech NIH Medical Scientist Training Program. He holds a PhD in biology from Caltech, an AB in chemical and physical biology with high honors from Harvard, and is a MD candidate (on leave) from UCLA.
Critical need: Engineering biology can be incredibly powerful for addressing problems in manufacturing and energy, but tools to rationally do so are lacking.
Technology vision: Tierra Biosciences’ technology creates a prototyping environment to rapidly speed up design-build-test cycles for bio-based processes and increase the amount of data collected.
Current state-of-the-art: The field has successfully produced chemicals and therapeutics such a 1,3-PDO, farnesene, and artemisinin; however, all test cycles are highly labor intensive and occur primarily in cells.
Key innovation: Tierra Biosciences uses cell-free systems as a prototyping environment, thereby allowing the collection of relevant biological data without the restrictions inherent in cellular engineering. Cell-free systems are inexpensive to produce and to use and require significantly less capital to deploy than cellular systems.
Competing technology: Current approaches are driven by high-throughput experiments done completely in cells through “molecular factories.” While sufficient to ultimately reach an end-product, this approach ignores fundamental principles of engineering (modularity, rational design, prototyping environments) and is time and capital intensive.
First market hypothesis: Bio-based processes for green chemistry.
Potential for impact: We seek to change the way biological engineering is conducted. If successful, our process will become a basis of engineering for a future carbon and energy-neutral bio-economy that relies on biology, rather than petroleum, to drive manufacturing.
We're looking for:
Team members - scientists, engineers
Team members - business
Joint development partners
zach [at] synvitrobio [dot] com