Despite recent advances in in vivo directed evolution techniques and the interest they have attracted so far, their impact in applied biotechnology is limited because of their limitations in programmability, selective drivers, cost and scalability. Here, we propose to construct a general-purpose programmable evolution machine able to quickly evolve new biomolecules or phenotypes in bacterial cells. The proposed device will use existing phage technology and synthetic regulation to engineer a programmable directed evolution machine able to produce biomolecules or biocomputational functionality two orders of magnitude faster than conventional techniques, while consuming fewer consumables. In its core, living matter will be subject to combinatorial search algorithms that will exploit large numbers of small, separate, bacterial populations.
We present the development of Evoprog machines that enable the community of synthetic biologists and biochemists low cost experiments to evolve new biomolecules with desired activities or organisms with selectable phenotypes. Our objective was to build a universal evolution platform for do-it-your-self biologists who do not have background in engineering and have no resources to buy expensive equipment for continuous cultures. Our machines are thoroughly tested for robustness, and also run real biological experiments to validate the concept. The machine is assembled using low cost materials, it is scalable and expandable, is user friendly and allows for great experimental flexibility.
Critically, all the hardware we develop will be released along with detailed assembly manuals and operation guides. Our belief is that biologists can excel when engineering challenges and limitations of stiff hardware specifications can be removed. Evoprog aims for that.
Our international consortium works in synergy to convert conceptual idea of fluidic hardware, programming the controllers and biology to ensure the Evoprog machine earned its name and recognition in the next generation of biological experimentation where only limitation is posed by the experimenter.