20n, A YC Synthetic Biology Startup, Uses Software To Engineer Microbes For Chemical-Making

TechCrunch

20n, one of a wave of biotech-related startups that Y Combinator is starting to fund, is the brainchild of a UC Berkeley professor and a post-doc.

Saurabh Srivastava and J. Christopher Anderson have worked together for several years developing software that can design genetically engineered microbes to make specific chemicals. While at their DARPA-backed lab at UC Berkeley, they created bacteria that could produce acetaminophen or Tylenol.

map-20n

Their special sauce is their software platform. While there are companies that do license out ways to create bacteria that produce specialty chemicals, the process of identifying how to create these microbes is tedious.

20n says its data mining technology can get to 100 times more chemicals than were previously thought possible. (A visual map of these possibilities is laid out in the picture at the right.)

Companies will tell 20n what molecules they want to make, and 20n’s software will design a microbe that can do…

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