A new facility at Concordia is about to change history. It will house robots that will bring a whole new concept of speed and scale to synthetic biology research.
The Genome Foundry is the first Canadian laboratory of its kind, and amongst only a handful at leading institutions around the world. By automating notoriously labour-intensive lab work, it will eliminate bottlenecks in a rapidly evolving field where the design principles of engineering fuse with the tools of biology to create meaningful synthetic biological systems.
“The Genome Foundry solidifies Concordia’s position as the Canadian leader in synthetic biology research and will enable our scientists to work at the cutting-edge while facilitating partnerships with other institutions,” says Christophe Guy, vice-president of Research and Graduate Studies. “Given that Concordia researchers are already engaged internationally in defining the future of this field, we are eager to witness how this new facility will support the transformative work being done at our university.”
At the moment n, much of the lab work done by synthetic biologists involves moving and combining small amounts of liquids and cells. The Genome Foundry’s robotics will allow for speed and absolute precision, thus greatly increasing the variety and number of experiments that can be completed, and the accuracy with which they can be reproduced.
The Genome Foundry was established with funds from the Canada Foundation for Innovation and the government of Quebec and is part of Concordia’s synthetic biology hub along with the Centre for Applied Synthetic Biology (CASB), the SynBioApps NSERC CREATE program and the soon-to-be-inaugurated District 3 Innovation Centre science hub.
“We are thrilled to open the doors of our Genome Foundry,” says Vincent Martin, co-director of the CASB. “This is a monumental addition to Canada’s synthetic biology ecosystem. It empowers us to navigate uncharted waters alongside our international colleagues, and to incubate the future leaders of our field.”
The CASB aims to develop high-value applications in human health, agriculture, chemicals and environmental technologies. It also provides a broad range of unique opportunities — such as the recently announced NSERC CREATE SynBioApps program — for training leading experts in the field.
Launching this technology platform also marks Canada’s participation in the next generation of synthetic biology, with Concordia now engaged in directing how this infrastructure will be developed and used on a global scale.
This facility will have real world, potential life-saving capabilities that deliver an innovative scientific approach to create genetic blueprints for individuals, bring more knowledge to researchers on a faster scale, and help physicians diagnose, treat and prevent their patients from contracting future diseases.