Our Investment in Enzymatic DNA Synthesis Technology Capable of Powering New Products in Industrial Synthetic Biology, Personalized Therapeutics, Precision Diagnostics, and Eventually Information Storage, Nanotechnology and More

By Brent MacDonald – Principal @ Rising Tide VC

Molecular Assemblies began more than 30 years ago when Bill Efcavitch and Curt Becker, then early founders at the pioneering biotech company Applied Biosystems, commercialized the first practical method of synthesizing DNA. Known as phosphoramidite synthesis[1], this chemical-based method was a significant breakthrough and remains the industry standard for making DNA today. It led to a wide range of tools and technologies using DNA and helped spawn the biotech industry as we know it. In 2013 Bill and Curt founded Molecular Assemblies to create a new approach to DNA synthesis. Their aim is the holy grail of DNA: enzymatic synthesis.

The ability to read DNA has revolutionized the fields of Biology, Life Science and Healthcare. The ability to write DNA will have an even broader impact for our world in the fields of Biofuels, Chemicals, Agriculture, Electronics, Nanotechnology and Information Storage.

Molecular Assemblies is developing an enzymatic, platform-independent synthesis technology that produces long, high-quality, sequence specific DNA reliably and affordably. In just three steps, its enzymatic process is simple, seamless and sustainable. Unconstrained by scale, format or platform, Molecular Assemblies’ enzymatic synthesis process is broadly applicable across new and emerging industries. The highly experienced executive and scientific team believe that DNA will become the industrial polymer of the 21st century and they are enabling that future. In fact, a recent McKinsey & Company report suggests that as much as 60 percent of the physical inputs to the global economy could be produced biologically[1]. Most anything made with petrochemistry—your carpets, cosmetics, and contact lenses, to name a few—could soon be made with biology. Not necessarily because it’s greener, but because you can engineer biology to make things more economically and more precisely.

One of the more fascinating and less intuitive applications of DNA synthesis is data storage. DNA is the most compact and durable information storage molecule that exists in our world and there are good reasons to believe that the future will be written in DNA. The world is producing more digital information than can be efficiently stored. An estimated 1.7 megabytes of data will be created per second per person globally, which translates to about 418 zettabytes in a single year (418 billion one-terabyte hard drive’s worth of information), assuming a world population of 7.8 billion. DNA represents an essentially limitless hard drive in nearly zero space. DNA data storage is thought about as the “golden backup.” It might take a day or two to retrieve a complete restore, but it will always and forever be a lossless, failsafe backup, capable of recording anything and everything users could ever want. It is also expected the cost of storing information in DNA could drop to $100 per terabyte in as little as five years.

In summary, DNA synthesis is a growing and potentially booming space, much like DNA sequencing in the early 2000s. We believe Molecular Assemblies’ approach in developing an enzymatic method, alongside its skilled team, makes it a compelling investment. Its potential to integrate into other DNA synthesis hardware platforms can also provide additional avenues for value creation.

Disclaimer: The portfolio companies described herein do not represent all the portfolio companies purchased, sold or recommended for portfolios advised by Rising Tide. The reader should not assume that an investment in the portfolio companies identified were or will be profitable. Past performance is not indicative of future results. Investors should be aware that a loss of investment is possible.

[1] McKinsey & Company: The Bio Revolution: Innovations Transforming Economies, Societies, and Our Lives. May 2020

[1] Phosphoramidites derived from protected nucleosides are referred to as nucleoside phosphoramidites and are widely used in chemical synthesis of DNA, RNA, and other nucleic acids and their analogs.