1. The Dark Genome
- Why did nature choose a particular DNA sequence for making proteins?
- Did she sample every possible genome sequence combination?
- If not, can we artificially express dark genome sequences into functional peptides and proteins?
- If yes, would such ‘lab-made proteins’ be stable and functional?
- What will be the best case scenarios and boundary conditions?
The term ‘dark genome‘ refers to non-expressing, non-translating, and extinct DNA sequences
that can be artificially encoded into functional molecules.
1. non-expressing (antisense, reverse coding, repetitive sequences, intergenic sequences)
2. non-translating (tRNA, ncRNA, ribosomal RNA, and introns)
3. extinct (pseudogenes)
A random walk in the space of the dark genome led to the first proof of the concept i.e., the synthesis of functional proteins from intergenic sequences of E.coli (Dhar et al 2009). Subsequently, antimalarial, antimicrobial, and anti-cancer molecules were produced in the lab using intergenic sequences of E.coli, D.melanogaster, and S.cerevisiae. Recently, we made tRNA-encoded peptides and reported their strong anti-leishmania property. Here is the list of publications.
Currently, we are making functional molecules (RNA, peptides, and proteins) from reverse coding, antisense sequences, pseudogenes, and introns. It is fascinating and intriguing to uncover the latent potential of these sequences. We do not know if cells use such molecules in emergency situations. The dark genome leading to dark transcriptome and dark proteome is an untapped goldmine waiting for exploration!
This has led to the spinning of "Foresight Biotech Pvt Ltd", a drug discovery company.
2. Regulating Synthetic Biology
developing a national policy framework towards responsible innovation
Why do we need a policy in synthetic biology?
The existing system of regulating recombinant DNA technology was designed to manage the tinkering of DNA sequences (point mutations, translocation & expression of non-native genes). Recently new challenges have arrived that require a discussion and reasonable coverage to ensure responsible innovation.
Long DNA synthesis technologies have reached a point where synthesizing a new gene or new microbial genomes or making non-ATGC DNA has turned into a real possibility. Likewise, in 2017, scientists from Scripps reported making a six-base DNA (X and Y) leading to the hacking of genetic code. A number of non-canonical amino acids have been incorporated into translation machinery as building blocks of a new generation of proteins.
Pointers to new policy interventions
Synthetic Biology research is complicated by the lack of a clear definition and exclusion criteria. The first requirement is to fix a definition and boundary condition i.e., what is synthetic biology and what is not.
You cannot be accused of breaking the law if there's none specified in the first place. The scientific community needs a clear policy on:
building biological standards, devices, and circuits
expansion of the genetic alphabet
bringing extinct species to life (de-extinction)
long DNA synthesis
research publications that describe methods of designing life-threatening organisms
non-specialist DIY biologist tinkering with an organism
The need of the hour is to conduct foresight and technology forecasting studies, perform horizon mapping, bring stakeholders from academia, industry, government, and societal representatives on a common platform for a deep analysis of the existing governance framework, and identify specific gaps that can lead to misuse if left unattended.
For more details, you may download the Synthetic Biology Foresight document HERE The project was funded by the Department of Biotechnology, Govt. of India.
7. Sharma P, PK Dhar. Synthetic biology and biodiversity. Asian Biotech Dev. Review 2022: 24(1), 81-82
6. Panda B, PK Dhar. Running and managing shared resources for scientific research: A model from biofoundry. Asian
Biotech Dev. Review 2021: 23 (in press)
5. Verma N, PK Dhar. Navigating the technology landscape in Synthetic Biology Asian Biotech Dev. Review 2021: 23 (3), 13-21
4. Sathyarajan S, B. Pisupati, N.Verma, PK Dhar. Regulating risks in synthetic biology. Asian Biotech Dev. Review 2021: 23 (3)
3. Das M, PK Dhar. What is Synthetic Biology? Asian Biotech Dev Review 2021: 23 93), 5-12
2. Pawan K. Dhar, Satya Prakash Dash, Deepak Singh. Synthetic Biology and the responsible futures. BioVoice 2016: 2, 28-30
1. Singh D and PK Dhar. Exploring the Future of Synthetic Biology in India and its probable pathways from Infancy to
Maturity. Curr Synthetic Sys Biol 2013, 1: 106 download
3. Lab grown meat
slaughter free, environment friendly, safe & affordable source of nutrition
The traditional meat industry slaughters animals for food, consuming 1/3rd of global freshwater leading to generation of greenhouse gases and massive environmental degradation. We are developing technologies to grow meat in the lab without antibiotics / animal slaughter with an aim of delivering eco-friendly, affordable and a safe source of nutrition.
Recently we have developed a general purpose ClearX9 animal cell culture media that can be used to grow a variety of animal and human cells. The culture medium is prepared from natural components, does not involve animal slaughter and shows performance comparable to Fetal Bovine Serum enriched media
The ClearX9 culture medium not only finds application in the cultured meat sector but can also be used in Biotech and Pharma companies, University labs and Research Institutes. Currently ClearX9 is in the product testing phase in several academic institutions.
The Clear Meat Pvt. Ltd. is India’s first lab grown meat company. We plan to roll out ClearX9™️ later this year at a significantly less market price than FBS enriched culture medium. Should you be interested in testing the product (available only in India at the moment), please do not hesitate to write to us (email@example.com)