The challenge of genetics: creating a new DNA

Researcher Floyd Romesberg has been surprising the scientific community for years with new results, starting from the idea of expanding the alphabet of human genome with two new letters. Indeed, as already known, the genetic heritage of each human being is contained in DNA, a complex, double-helix structure resulting from the combination of as few as 4 amino acids–a (adenine), c (cytosine), t (thiamine) and g (guanine). F. Romesberg’s team in 2013 managed to include two new bases–X and Y–to a culture of Escherichia Coli. The research was conducted in Scrip Research Campus facilities, in La Jola, California. Its results have raised much interest within the scientific community and even outside–suffice it to consider the  TEDMED Talk held by Dr. Romesberg in 2015). Importantly, 6-bases-DNA organisms cannot multiply outside a culture of X and Y bases.

The following challenge that researchers faced was assessing whether the new DNA could generate new proteins, with potential new applications. Romesberg’s team has recently published two articles (JACS) showing that the new DNA has induced mitochondrial RNA to create new protein precursors.

While working on his research, Romesberg has founded a biotech– Synthorx–which is working on creating new drugs from cells with expanded DNA. The first target of this project is creating a less toxic, more efficacious version of interleukin-2 cancer drug. Synthorx was listed less than 40 days ago (NASDAQ) and its shares have already risen by 16% after its IPO. The company currently has $463m in capitalization and has potential to become a primary acquisition target for big pharma companies.