Univercells acquires SynHelix, makes debut into synthetic biology space

BELGIUM – Univercells has entered the synthetic biology space with the acquisition of SynHelix, a French DNA synthesis firm.

Univercells, a Belgian bioprocess firm, adds technology aimed at simplifying biotherapeutic development through a scalable and automated DNA synthesis platform in the deal, the financials of which have not been disclosed.

SynHelix’s technology is based on the GMP production of large quantities of long DNA fragments and has been promoted as an alternative to DNA amplification on bacteria in the fields of synthetic biology, gene therapy, and diagnostics.

Traditional DNA amplification, according to the company, necessitates large and expensive industrial facilities, as well as complex processing and quality control steps for very low yields, and its platform can meet the demand for rapid, cheap, multiplex genome modification by producing higher purity and 10,000-fold larger yield DNA constructs.

Alain Huriez, chairman and managing partner of AdBio partners, which invested in SynHelix in December 2019, said: “The confirmation of the potential of the SynHelix technology was soon beyond our expectations and it was time to offer the company the fastest and most agile industrial development opportunity, as well as the possibility for its founders to continue innovating in a supportive environment.”

Following the transaction, SynHelix will be renamed Quantoom Research Center, a new affiliate of the Univercells Group based in France.

Both the founders of SynHelix and AdBio Partners, a French life sciences venture capital firm, will become Univercells’ minority shareholders.

SynHelix intends to apply this technology to Quantoom’s automated platform, incorporating a new genomic DNA bioreactor for both R&D and production purposes.

SynHelix and its technology will be incorporated within Univercells’ affiliate Quantoom, complementing an RNA production system currently under development.

In other news, Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies, a biologics contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO) and subsidiary of Fujifilm Corporation, has expanded its BioProcess Innovation Center in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina.

Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies will add approximately 145 skilled positions, including researchers and scientists, to the Research Triangle Park site by 2024 as a result of the expansion.

The expansion will more than double the company’s capacity to support process characterization programs, and it will complement Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies’ UK facility.

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