Building with DNA

In April 2020, humanity faced the initial onslaught of a new, evolving, and transformative virus, SARS-CoV-2, that changed the very fabric of how each of every single human on our planet lived, worked, and functioned.  That same month, Marc Andreesen, yes the same Marc Andreesen that founded Netscape and later founded one of the quintessential venture capital firms Andreesen Horowitz, wrote a thoughtful essay, published on his VC firms site, where he advocated for building something…anything…that moved society forward from that point.   

He writes “to reboot the American dream we need to demand more of our political leaders, of our CEOs, our entrepreneurs, our investors. We need to demand more of our culture, of our society. And we need to demand more from one another. We’re all necessary, and we can all contribute, to building.”  His essay was thoughtful, real and on point, except there is one thing he forgot to mention when building…build with DNA.    

When one speaks of DNA, your first thought may be…DNA the foundational, genetic make-up of life.  Though this is true, DNA is so much more.   “Using DNA as a programming language, it can enable us to use biomanufacturing to synthesize food, become a new medium to store the world’s data, design smart medicines for individual patients, and program matter itself.”  

Our ability toengineer biologywith DNA will transform how we diagnose, treat, and manage diseases, create new products, and transform business models.  

The first transformative leap took place in the early 1980s with recombinant DNA technology and the first biotech drug.  Today, modern gene-editing tools like CRISPR and gene synthesis enable us toprogram biology with greater precision and sophistication, from bacteria that are engineered to produce new chemicals and proteins, to cells that are engineered to attack cancer. Today, the explosion of personalized medicines (in the form of genes, cells, microbes, even mobile apps and software that can improve our health itself) are leading us closer than ever before to that holy grail of medicine, the cure.   All of this is made possible through DNA! 

Biology will not only impact human health and disease, but also other industries. With its unparalleled ability to evolve, replicate, and create, DNA will become the manufacturing technology of the 21st century. There are companies using DNA to transform food, alter agriculture, build textiles, improve manufacturing, and change software itself through DNA-based computers.  To provide you with a better sense of where biology is today, think of where the information technology industry was 4 to 5 decades ago.  Think of the massive leaps the IT industry has undergone over that time.  Biology is at a tipping point where our lives could be forever transformed.  Like software, biology will one day become part of every industry.   

 

  1. Andreesen, M.: “It’s Time to Build” Andreesen Horowitz 
  2. Cumbers, J.; “It’s Time to Build with DNA” Forbes 
  3. Conde, J.; Pande, V.; Yoo, J.; “Biology is Eating the World: A Manifesto” 

 

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