Desktop Genetics
Horizon Discovery and Desktop Genetics Collaborate on CRISPR Design Platform

Platform to be used as part of Horizon’s GENESIS suite of gene editing technologies

Cambridge, UK, 17 December 2014: Horizon Discovery (Horizon), a leading provider of research tools to support translational genomics and the development of personalized medicines, today announced it has entered into a collaboration agreement with Desktop Genetics for development of a CRISPR design platform. The platform will be used by Horizon to quickly identify the best guide-RNAs in the human genome for each gene editing task, as part of its GENESIS™ suite of gene editing technologies. 

Desktop Genetics will design and implement algorithms for the new platform based on Horizon’s input and CRISPR knowledge. Horizon licensed the CRISPR gene editing technology from Harvard University in September 2013, adding to its existing rAAV and ZFN gene editing capabilities. Through its GENESIS™ precision gene-editing platform, Horizon offers researchers an unrivalled toolbox capable of performing rapid functional genomics experiments, as well as creation of high-precision human disease models for deployment at all stages of drug discovery and diagnostic development.

“Horizon is placing significant  investment in ensuring our scientists and customers have access to the best gene editing technology, or combination of technologies, to most effectively achieve their goals,” commented Eric Rhodes, CTO, Horizon Discovery. “We are committed to ensuring that we continue to be able to offer our customers a best-in-class solution for their research needs.”

Riley Doyle, CEO of Desktop Genetics, said: “Desktop Genetics develops novel software tools that are optimized for applications in gene expression, antibody engineering, cell line development, functional genomics, gene-editing and protein production. We are excited to be working with Horizon, a leader in its field, on its application of the cutting-edge CRISPR technology.”


At Horizon:

Eric Rhodes, CTO


Media enquiries for Horizon:

Katie Odgaard

Zyme Communications

Tel: +44 (0)7787 502 948


Media enquiries for Desktop Genetics:

Edward Perello

Desktop Genetics


About Horizon Discovery

Horizon Discovery Limited (Horizon) is a leading provider of research tools to support translational genomics research and the development of personalized medicines. Using GENESISTM, Horizon is able to alter any endogenous gene sequence of a human or mammalian cell-line quickly, reliably and without introducing unwanted and confounding genotypes and/or phenotypes.

Horizon has applied GENESIS to create over 500 X-MAN™ cell lines, the world’s first source of genetically-defined and patient-relevant human cell lines, accurately modeling the disease-causing mutations found in cancer patients. These ‘patients-in-a-test-tube’ are being used by academic and industry leaders to identify the effect of individual or compound genetic mutations on drug activity, patient responsiveness, and resistance, leading to the successful prediction of which patient sub-groups will respond to currently-available and future drug treatments. This enables the design of shorter, more focused, and less expensive clinical trials, ultimately providing the tools to identify the ‘right drugs’ for the ‘right patients’ based upon the unique genetic mutations that define their disease.

In addition to the X-MAN cell lines, Horizon provides GENESIS and X-MAN™ derived products and services, with industrial application in: bio-pharmaceutical process optimization; clinical diagnostic development; drug discovery & development; and the provision of reference standards for genomic-based clinical research platforms.

About Desktop Genetics

Desktop Genetics is a UK-based biotechnology company dedicated to making your research and development more productive and cost efficient, so that you can get the most out of limited resources.

Our core platform, AutoClone™, is a DNA Search Engine that enables the optimal design, synthesis, management and sharing of DNA constructs. AutoClone™ is ideal for companies working in gene expression, antibody engineering, cell line development, functional genomics, gene-editing and protein production.

Founded by scientists and researchers fluent in the languages of biology, programming, and R&D operations, Desktop Genetics has first-hand experience with the technical, operational and financial challenges facing molecular biology laboratories today.

We develop novel software tools that are optimised to deliver impact on the individual needs of your organisation. Get in touch with us today to discuss how we can help make DNA work for you.

Desktop Genetics Ltd Receives £375,000 Funding to Commercialize Genetic Engineering Platform AutoClone™

London UK, August 27th 2013

Desktop Genetics Ltd (DeskGen), a UK bioinformatics company aiming to revolutionize the way genetic engineers work together, announced today that it has secured an equity investment of £275,000. The investment comes from Boundary Capital Ltd, Execute Technologies Inc, and angel investors Richard Youngman, Michael Martin (both of Anvil Partners LLP), Dr Jonathan Milner (CEO, AbCam Plc) and Dr Darrin M Disley (CEO, Horizon Discovery Ltd). The receipt of the investment further unlocks a Technology Strategy Board grant for an additional £100,000, bringing the total funds raised to £375,000. DeskGen has also announced the appointment of Dr Darrin M Disley as non-executive chairman.

DeskGen is developing AutoClone™, a new DNA research engine that enables the optimal design, construction, management and exchange of DNA constructs to be used for vector/plasmid manufacturing, genome-editing, protein production and synthetic biology work-flows. AutoClone is a bioinformatics platform and database that works by sourcing the DNA sequences needed to build any new DNA specified by the user. These DNA sequences may come from the user’s own freezer, from another lab within their organization, or even public repositories. In sourcing the sequence information, AutoClone enhances research productivity by reducing the lengthy and expensive process by which DNA is synthesized externally (4-6 weeks by CRO) or internally (5-6 hours by expert scientists). DNA sequence, inventory, management and sharing functions enable the rapid and accurate assembly of sequences into validated molecular biology tools.

The investment will be used to: (a) expand the functionality of the AutoClone™ platform through internal R&D programs and in conjunction with industrial partners; (b) develop a cloud version of the product to be launched following a beta trial to be held in Q4, 2013; (c) establish business development, sales, and marketing functions that will enable the serving of customers in Europe and the USA.

Riley Doyle, CEO and founder of DeskGen, commenting on the close of the investment said: “AutoClone™ is a DNA design tool combined with a search engine that generates error-free protocols for researchers to recycle existing DNA and make the genes upon which the trillion pound Life Science industry depends. By crowdsourcing the constructs that researchers need, we believe the platform can save up to six million man-hours per year across the entire biotech domain. I am very happy we have been able to secure this investment which will enable us to move the business forward rapidly.”

Dan Somers, MD of Boundary Capital Ltd, said: “We’re delighted to be investing in DeskGen which is positioned to revolutionize the way DNA is built. The availability of high-quality DNA constructs is becoming essential as research efforts to unlock the potential of the human genome project increase at a near exponential rate. I look forward to working with the new Chairman and the executive team to deliver on the promise of the business”.



About Desktop Genetics Ltd

Desktop Genetics develops technologies at the intersection of biotechnology, information management and laboratory automation. The company has developed AutoClone™, an automated software platform that enables the optimal design, construction, management and exchange of DNA constructs to be deployed in vector/plasmid manufacturing, genome-editing, protein production and synthetic biology work-flows.

The Company was founded by Riley Doyle, Victor Dillard and Edward Perello whilst completing their MPhil in Bioscience Enterprise at the University of Cambridge. Having won numerous business plan competitions including the Carpe Diem Life Science Start-Up of 2012 Award from Cambridge University Entrepreneurs the team established the business in October 2012 at the Google Campus in London, England.

More information at


Media Contacts

Mr Edward Perello, BD Director

Tel: +44 777 577 0533                        



DeskGen at IWBDA 2013 London

This year the Fifth International Workshop on Bio-Design Automation (IWBDA) came to London and Desktop Genetics was pleased to take part in the best one yet.

Bio-design automation seeks to bring the engineering principles and tools of electronics to biology with the goal of making the it easier and cheaper for scientists to bring the benefits of synthetic biology and biotechnology to everyone.

A central theme of the workshop was the need to develop open standards to facilitate the exchange of information between DNA design-focused tools such as Genome Compiler or Lab Genius and DNA assembly-focused tools, like AutoClone. After all, what good is it if you can design a plasmid, but can’t build it?

In fact, the distinction between bioCAD (design) and bioCAM (building that design) was one well-recognised by the IWBDA attendees, with several commenting that separating the two is analogous to the division of labour in electrical engineering. 

Speakers presented homologues to successful tools from other industries such as CAD software, version control systems, diagraming and modelling notations, open standards, simulators, and assembly planners. Desktop Genetics recognises the need for such standards and is eager to help support their development.

Engineering life is not without its unique surprises, however, and a second theme of IWBDA focused on this aspect. Domitilla Del Vecchio from MIT presented on the unexpected behaviour that happens when two gene regulatory networks are connected together and how this can be addressed with biological “insulators”.

Howard Salis from Penn State University demonstrated that natural genes rarely have clearly defined “parts” or simple consensus sequences. Instead, biophysical models can quantitatively predict both the presence and strength of Ribosome Binding Sites. 

All in all it was a great workshop and exciting to get everyone together. The Desktop Genetics team looks forward to seeing everyone at next event and taking the next steps to develop industry-wide tools and standards.

Riley Doyle | CEO

Desktop Genetics


Desktop Genetics Awarded Grand Prize at CUTEC Technology Ventures Conference

We recently returned to Cambridge to attend the Technology Ventures Conference, exactly one year since our debut at the Cambridge University Entrepreneurs event where we received the award for best life science startup. 

In this last year, we’ve spent our days and nights growing the AutoClone platform and Desktop Genetics into an emerging bioinformatics company that is transforming DNA assembly and genomics research.

Not only were we proud to return to the institution we regard as our home, but we were honoured by the reception received from the local academic and commercial community, who selected us to receive the TVC Kickstart grand prize.

Desktop Genetics continues to go from strength to strength and we could not do this without the support of the Cambridge Cluster and its network.  Our special thanks go to the CUTEC team themselves, who organized a great event with fantastic speakers and attendees, many of whom we are now in contact with to take DeskGen to the next level.

Make sure to check out the CUTEC website for next year’s TVC, and keep an eye out for our new blog on the start up experience that we will be writing regularly for the Oxbridge Biotech Roundtable

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Fundraising for Convergent Medical Technologies: A View From the Front Line

Invited to speak at the Convergent Medical Technologies Conference, founders Victor and Riley head to the Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst to share Desktop Genetics’ recent fundraising experiences in the UK tech landscape. Victor reports…

Convergent Medical Technologies (CMTs) medical innovations derived from the synergistic combination of two or more distinct technologies, are changing how we apply life science for healthcare. Advanced satellite imaging algorithms for diagnostics„  cell phone engineering techniques for telemedicine and robotics, biomarkers and biosensors are all a reality thanks to the fusion of once disparate expertise.

With software and biotechnology embedded at Desktop Genetics’ core, we  were invited to speak on this subject of multi-stream innovation at the Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst’s CMT conference (link) on May 21st. Joining a panel discussion with venture capital veteran Herbert Oaks (Oaks, Lyman & Co.) and serial CEO Fiona Marston (Absynth Biologics) we brought our front-line experience with the challenges and opportunities of funding CMTs to the table.

We discussed the difficulty in finding individual investors with several technology focuses; important as CMTs require a broad range of expertise that covers each component technology within the CMT. But this, as everyone agreed, is just the first hurdle for companies in this space, the second being the development of a succinct message that captures investors’ own interests in what can otherwise seem like confusing technobabble on the Starship Enterprise.  

One delegate concluded that the capacity for tech innovation was equivalent in the US and the EU, yet the capacity to commercialise tech in the EU was substandard. In our opinion, Herbert’s take nicely summed up why - "In the US, people regard business as a sport. In the EU, as a means to get wealthy to buy a house in Gloucestershire!". From this, the panel agreed that the zero returns observed in European venture capital over the past 25 years had led professional venture capital away from the continent - “capital follows returns, not the other way around”. And this makes funding CMTs rather tough in this part of the world. 

Narrowing in on the UK for instance, Victor Dillard was asked whether the UK patent box was helping Desktop Genetics raise finance, to which he replied that although the patent box initiative is extremely attractive to doing business in the UK, it does not help raise early stage finance in particular and is thus not (yet) applicable to early-stage companies (pre-revenue, pre-profitability).

However, for those thinking about their own CMT enterprise it isn’t all doom and gloom. Delegates pointed out the flexibility that CMTs hold in raising early revenue from commercialising each individual component technology, or the alternate sources of financing available in the Asian markets, for example in China and Singapore.

The morning panel sessions gathered several high profile guests to discuss key opportunities in the CMT landscape, including GE Healthcare CEO & President John Dineen, Syncona Partners CEO Martin Murphy, Head of J&J’s London Innovation Centre, Patrick Verheyen and MRC Chief Executive Sir John Savill, chaired by the Wellcome Trust‘s Chairman, Sir William Castell.

The afternoon was no less powerful, with SBC Chairman Allan Baxter uniting Berwyn Clarke, Raman Minhas, Rebeca Todd and Edward van der Meer on best practices for commercialising CMT ideas. Together, they stressed the importance of generating revenue as soon as possible and how to do it, as well as the importance of protecting people’s data ownership in this era of Big Data.

To be sure, it was a very successful day, putting SBC on the map as a centre for innovation and gathering an incredible network of power-figures and CMT specialists, of which Desktop Genetics was glad to be a part of. We had great coverage throughout a day of inspiring and forward-looking discussions, which forced us to challenge the current system and identify opportunities for change!

For more information about CMTs and fundraising for convergent startup, check out some of our favourite blogs and articles:

Victor Dillard
Founder  |  Desktop Genetics

On the Road with AutoClone

Just this week we got back from the Boston Biotech cluster where we went to demo AutoClone in the US for the first time - and the trip was an enormous success.

Initially invited out to attend the Dartmouth College Venture Showcase (Riley’s stomping grounds for engineering school), we extended our tour for another week to meet up with our network of friends, former colleagues and scientists-about-town at the forefront of East Coast Life Science research.

We showed AutoClone to over a dozen companies and a few academic research laboratories – and for the most part, people are loving it. Most importantly, they’re confirming to us that they would happily pay for it, and were thrilled to be invited onto our Beta Test.

This is an important step for Desktop Genetics. As we demo AutoClone to more people both back home and abroad, we’re gaining a clearer understanding of how powerful it is as both a research tool and a platform for a better way to do biotechnology research. It’s thrilling to see future customers’ excitement, and to get such good feedback from them on how we take it to the next level.

We’ll be heading out to the West Coast soon, but if you want to see AutoClone in action then get in touch and enroll for our Beta test.

Riley Doyle


Leading Biosafety and Biosecurity in Hong Kong

Last month we had the fantastic privilege of being invited to speak at the International Council of Life Sciences (ICLS) conference on Synthetic Biology and Security in Hong Kong.  The meeting, funded by the FBI and UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), was attended by some of the major corporate players in the gene synthesis and life science arena, along with distinguished international academics and professionals from numerous law enforcement agencies.

Biosafety and biosecurity are topics very close to our hearts at Desktop Genetics, and we’re proud to be involved in these kinds of high-level international policymaking discussions. As emerging technologies mature and become more widely used, the chances of them being put to work for negative purposes increase.

Biotechnology, and specifically any technology that makes genetic engineering easier, is just another example of such “dual-use technology”. And while multiple international agreements and instances of national legislation exist to control this, the new field of synthetic biology is making it easier than ever for anyone to do garage biology how they see fit. That’s why new questions need to be asked for new legislation to be made – and that’s why we’re so happy to be involved in answering them.

Simply put, we are helping to write the regulations on the very technology we are developing, and we have prioritized our interactions with these major law enforcement bodies and policymaking circles.

After briefing the conference on the latest developments taking place at our offices in London, we caught up with some old friends at the FBI and made new ones with the folks at Interpol, the UK Defense Science Technology Laboratory, and the UN WMD Directorate, who invited us to brief them the next time we are in New York.

While we didn’t get too much time to see Hong Kong, it felt good to see so many people impressed that our small company takes these big issues so seriously!

Edward Perello


Outcomes from the Industrial Biotech Leadership Forum - Feb 2 2013

Last week we went along to the UK Industrial Biotechnology Leadership Leadership Forum in London, where we won the BIOCHEM Accelerator  award for the best pitch from their venture capital panel.

We also got speaking with industrial customers and recruited AutoClone beta testers in this key emerging field. It was a fantastic 2 days, especially with the honour of winning the  In this blog post, Edward Perello walks us through why Desktop Genetics is so keen to get involved with industrial biotechnology.

Why Industrial Biotech is Gaining Momentum

For a lot of people, biotechnology is what the pharmaceutical industry does to make blockbuster drugs like Avastin. And to be sure, biotechnology is great for those kind of bio-industrial processes as - by definition - cells are scalable replicating factories that can produce anything their instructions tell them to.

A key problem has been the cost and complexity of developing a new cell line with the right instructions. For Biopharma this problem is tolerated because the rewards, huge market, and frequent lack of alternative medical options offset the enormous costs associated with the R&D. On the other hand, other bio-commodities (biofuels, bioplastics etc) need to compete with their petrochemical alternatives.

It boils down to a function of affordability of the R&D against the affordability perceived by consumers. For the past few decades the equation has been working for Biopharma because its been the only field where the result has been positive - especially for consumers who want to keep breathing. But now the equation is shifting in other sectors, particularly the industrial one.

Over the two days we spent at London’s Industrial Biotechnology Leadership Forum, we heard a great deal of enthusiasm  for biotechnology coming from traditionally non-biotech industries, particularly from chemical companies which are keen to get involved and develop their own bioengineering facilities with their own full-time biotech staff. Previously, biological methods have been viewed as far too complicated and expensive to be realistic, and major chemical firms have simply outsourced anything bio to specialised subcontractors.

But as that aforementioned equation shifts, simultaneously simplifying biotech and bringing down costs, industrial biotechnology is finally becoming a realistic option for more than just BioPharma. The R&D is easier and cheaper, meaning savings can be passed on directly to the consumer - meaning that industry is getting hungrier for biotechnology. And by developing the tools that make that R&D even easier and cheaper, Desktop Genetics is effectively putting it on a plate for them.


Why Desktop Genetics Loves Industrial Biotechnology

What we saw over those few days was that industrial biotech means big things for big industry. Expensive 10 step chemical processes can become simple metabolic pathways that are cheaper to make and cheaper to execute. However, industrial biotechnology is much more than financial gain alone.

It essentially rolls together some of the most pressing issues of our generation - climate change, environmental scarcity and food vs fuel - and acts as a platform on which to provide better alternatives. Referring to his recently published report, Sustainable Returns, Jonathon Porritt’s keynote speech pointed out that industrial biotech offers the world newfound sustainability through: alternative feedstocks; huge reductions in greenhouse gas emissions; and “dematerialisation” - less inputs for more outputs. When you consider the implications, its truly game changing.

Nevertheless, there were discussions of the painful contrast between the subsidisation that the US is providing its industrial biotech sector, versus what we’re doing here in the UK. If we want to get a bigger slice of the £360 billion boon that the domain will provide the world by 2025, then we must resolve to bridge the maturity gap that lies between the chemical and the biological. 

To fully realise the potential of the British and global bio-economies, we must, as a sector, push biology into every industrial process and support it with everything we can.

Desktop Genetics is 100% behind this statement because of the enormous potential we see in industrial biotech. The team really has had a love affair with it for some time, and we are pumped about helping industry achieve its next revolution  with our tools.

And even more so, it seems that industry is pumped about us. On day two, we entered the BIOCHEM Accelerator Forum’s business plan competition and pitched to a crowd of industry and biotechnology venture capitalists. As ever, it was a privilege to do so alongside other great British (and Danish) biotechs, but the bigger privilege for us was winning the award for our pitch and our concept.

It means a lot to us to know that people are buying into our vision, particularly in this wonderfully exciting  sector that stands to change the world. Thanks to all who voted for us!

Edward Perello

Director & Co-Founder


The Innovation Nation: SynBio and Gene Synthesis in the UK - Jan 8th 2013

The UK Department for Business, Innovation and Skills recently released a report updating the public on progress made with the 2011 Life Science Strategy. The new report brings gene synthesis more into focus, but does it go far enough? Edward Perello discusses.
A theme of biotech that really resonates with me is the idea that biology is technology (borrowing the title of Rob Carlson’s book there).

What I mean by “technology” is not the dictionary definition of the word, but its meaning as it is popularly used: information technology; telecommunications; electronic components; microchips; and that sort of thing. These technology-enabled items and processes are fundamental to our world such that they are now synonymous with “technology” itself.
Biology’s day is coming and we need to be preparing for a civilization-wide infiltration of biology-enabled items and processes that will change our world in the same way information technologies have already done so.
Given the continual rallying of capabilities within biotech and synthetic biology, it’s not simply a matter of if; it’s a matter of when.

But the precise when, and the extent to which it is rolled out, will depend on how much governments choose to lend their support to implementing the bio-renaissance.
The DeskGen team is really encouraged by the UK’s progress highlighted in a report recently published by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the Strategy for UK Life Sciences: One Year On.

While the initial 2011 report that crowned the UK’s new Life Science strategy made no mention of next-generation gene synthesis, it did delineate several steps needed to realise a world-leading synthetic biology sector in the UK.

2012 saw some these germinate, such as the establishment of the Synthetic Biology Leadership Council, and the publication of the Synthetic Biology Roadmap. Additionally, £50 million was allocated to multidisciplinary research and training centers and, for the first time, gene synthesis was mentioned as being a focal point for one such centre.

These are important steps, but they don’t go far enough. The Technology Strategy Board has recognized that synthetic biology has “the potential to create a billion pound industry within the UK in the next decade”. We think the long-term potential is far higher, but that policymakers have to do a lot more to nurture the UK’s synthetic biology industry.

The Prime Minister speaks a great deal of “genomic platforms for innovation”, and the UK certainly punches above its weight in life science, but it appears that synthetic biology and gene synthesis remain on the back seat of the life science bus.

If biology is to become as ubiquitous a technology as conventional information technology, more resources must be diverted to this fledgling field. That means time, money, expertise and especially new public relations campaigns.

As one example, we’d love to see more dedicated synthetic biology and gene synthesis funding vehicles, not only from a UK perspective, but also within the EU’s forthcoming Horizon 2020 framework. We’re also going to need the public’s support for engineering life - no easy task, but its something that we can all start contributing to by talking about our work and highlighting its wider benefits to society.

Edward Perello, Director & Co-founder
Desktop Genetics

Pitching at the HUB Academy and Our Thoughts on Crowdfunding - Dec 8th 2012

With Healthbox, DeskGen is getting sent to the front of the line to pitch at London’s early-stage investor meetings. On December 6th,Victor Dillard pitched at London’s Hub Academy investor meeting in Kings Cross. Victor updates us and walks us through DeskGen’s thoughts on crowdfunding.

As always, it felt good to be up in front of a big audience, telling people about what DeskGen is doing and informing them on the latest developments with our software. It is of course an absolute privilege to follow on from some of our fellow HUB companies, but for me, the real joy is seeing new faces in the crowd and answering their questions afterwards.

More questions means more enthusiasm, and there were certainly a lot of questions. The vibe at HUB was electric following a series of inspiring pitches from London-based start-ups like Print My Pixel, MenuSpring, FarmDrop, EnergyDeck, Executips, NearDesk and Triptease, and the great talk by Seedrs CEO, Jeff Lynn.

Seedrs is a UK-based company that is pioneering equity-crowdfunding in Britain. Given the UK’s leadership on enacting equity-crowdfunding legislation, Seedrs is the country’s first fully regulated and authorised company to manage crowdfunded “mini-IPOs” for startups.

Since forming, we’ve made it a priority to keep all of our investors and friends in the loop with everything, at all times. But we’ve been concerned that going the crowdfunding route might precipitate complexities of managing potentially many hundreds of investors at this early stage.

We’re certainly pleased to see companies like Seedrs getting so much interest.  They provide a way to outsource crowdfunder management while letting us focus on building out our tech and our business. And with the US now following the UK’s lead on equity-crowdfunding legislation with the JOBS Act, a transatlantic equity-crowdfunding round remains on the table - at least in theory.

Now the greatest challenge we face with crowdfunding is actually getting a crowd of laypeople enthused about desktop DNA printing. This might prove difficult, but we’re considering ways of overcoming this. Whatever we decide, we’ll keep you informed and hope you get involved when the time comes, in whatever way you can.

Victor Dillard, Director & Co-founder
Desktop Genetics