I've been reading up about DNA writing, and it seems there are machines available around the five-figure US dollar mark for DNA synthesis, and I'm considering picking one up for my lab.

We normally order our DNA/oligos from IDT and similar companies, and for cutting down cycle time from a few days with next-day shipping to a few hours with in-house printing, as well as potentially saving on cost with enough scale (how much is enough scale?), this seems really promising for our lab.

Is this a reasonable thing to do?

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    $\begingroup$ Have you looked at how much reagents cost? $\endgroup$ – Cell Oct 10 '20 at 23:46
  • $\begingroup$ @Cell Is that the concern? $\endgroup$ – TheEnvironmentalist Oct 11 '20 at 2:58
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    $\begingroup$ I'm not sure. My ex-supervisor purchased a DNA sequencer and the consumables were so pricey it was actually cheaper to send samples to a dedicated facility. The only reason we would use it was if we wanted results in a few days and not weeks. I would look into it if I were you. $\endgroup$ – Cell Oct 11 '20 at 11:59
  • $\begingroup$ it would be helpful to know more about the scale of oligos, etc. Definitely look at the consumables price. I know that for the opposite approach, DNA sequencing, the technology advances so quickly that it really doesn't make sense for independent (small-medium) groups to buy their own sequencing instruments, as they're pretty finicky, so most people just send their libraries to a dedicated provider like genewiz or a university core facility. $\endgroup$ – Maximilian Press Oct 29 '20 at 19:26

So far as I'm aware, the big distinction right now is whether you want dsDNA or oligos.

If you often want lots of oligos, then getting your own synthesizer likely makes sense. Run the numbers and see what the time for return on investment will be and you'll see if it works for you financially.

If you want gene-scale dsDNA, you're currently generally better off getting a specialist company involved (or a foundry, if you've got one that you can access). Not only do they have economies of scale, but they have a lot of experience figuring out how to handle difficult sequences and assemblies. If you take it all in house you might appear to save money but actually end up losing significant money and time when you count in the time and frustration that your lab ends up spending to go from oligos to genes.

If you've got particular expertise or highly specialized needs, it's a whole different story, but that doesn't sound like the case based on your question.

Note that there are a number of desktop synthesis companies that are working to make this answer obsolete right now, and it may well change quickly in the future.


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