Applied Evolutionary Genetics


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  1. Mostly Bacteria ... but note that TA systems are also found in Eukaryotes


  1. BMC Microbiology, 8: 104 (2008)

  2. Biotechniques 38: 775-781 (2005)


  1. Cédric Szpirer

  2. Julien Guglielmini


Delphi Genetics


The time necessary between basic scientific developments and their industrial application is decreasing continuously. This situation is particularly perceptible in biotechnology as, typically, a few years separate a discovery and its potential products. Moreover, it is indisputable that a tight link between state-of-the-art basic research and its potential applications is source of creativity. Our work in basic evolutionary genetics has already generated tools applicable to biotechnology.  For example, we have developed a software incorporating a finite state automaton for the automated detection and identification of repeats in molecular sequences and a heuristic allowing the automated design of highly specific and optimal primer pairs or long oligonucleotides on full genomes.

Poisons/antidotes. Given the explosive increase in sequences available, biologists are faced with a huge bulk of raw data that must be analyzed. Efficient exploitation of this unprecedented massive amount of biological information will necessarily require large scale & high throughput approaches that, in turn, will necessitate selection of recombinants.  An effective solution to this latter problem is provided by the poison/antidote technology developed at the ULB and partly licensed to Invitrogen Corporation (Carlsbad, CA). Several of the biotechnological tools that make use of poison and antidotes have been developed in my laboratory in close collaboration with Delphi Genetics SA, a spin-off company recently founded by Philippe Gabant, Cédric Szpirer, Michel C. Milinkovitch, and the ULB. Delphi Genetics commercializes since 2006 several kits for molecular cloning and protein production that surpass in efficiency all competing technologies.  More information is available at The company is approximately doubling its turnover every year since 2003 (500 thousands Euros in 2005).

Automation of DNA engineering technology requires the development of homologous recombination tools and the discovery of new poison/antidote genes. Hence, we have identified in Michel Milinkovitch’s laboratory new candidate genes through automated comparison of known poison-antidote genes against sequences accumulating in public databases. These genes are then functionally tested in different bacterial and eukaryotic models. Furthermore, we have been performing phylogenetic analyses of poison-antidote genes in order to understand the origin and evolution of these very peculiar, and probably selfish, genetic elements.

Michel Milinkovitch remained on the Academic side whereas Philippe Gabant and Cédric Szpirer work full time in the company.


  1. Szpirer C. Y. & M. C. Milinkovitch
    Separate-Component-Stabilization (SCS) System for protein and DNA production without the use of antibiotics
    Biotechniques 38: 775-781 (2005)

  2. Guglielmini J., Szpirer C., & M. C. Milinkovitch
    Automated Discovery and Phylogenetic Analysis of New Toxin-Antitoxin Systems
    BMC Microbiology, 8: 104 (2008)

Delphi Genetics web site

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