A host of burgeoning fields in biomedicine — from personalized therapies and CRISPR gene editing to targeted tumor diagnostics — depend on the ability of labs to synthesize DNA on demand, cheaply and reliably.

Innovators in the field like San Francisco-based Twist Bioscience (TWST) and Cambridge, Mass.-based Gen 9 use silicon wafers and microarrays to scale up the process, but are still using the same basic chemical techniques pioneered some 30 years ago. Now, a tiny ten-person startup in San Diego called Molecular Assemblies Inc. is nudging into the field with an entirely new process that uses enzymes instead of chemicals to create DNA. The technique was co-invented by one of the company’s founders, William Efcavitch, who also helped pioneered the chemical technique for synthesizing DNA that is in widespread use today.

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