Polynucleotide Synthesizer Model 280, Solid Phase Chemistry Module

Description (Brief)
In the late 1970s the growing field of genetics created a demand for made-to-order short-chain DNA molecules, known as polynucleotides. These designer stretches of DNA were important laboratory tools. Scientists used them both as probes to find specific DNA sequences in a larger genome and as the building blocks of custom genes for genetic engineering. Building polynucleotides by hand in the lab, however, was expensive, time consuming, and boring work.
In December 1980 Vega Biotechnologies introduced the first polynucleotide synthesizer or “gene machine,” which automated production of short DNA chains. The machine lowered the time needed to make a fifteen-base strand of DNA from several months to about a day, greatly reducing the price of customized DNA for research and industry. The instrument consisted of two parts: a chemistry unit and a computer unit. The chemistry unit assembled DNA using solid-phase chemistry techniques. The computer unit controlled the reaction and could be programmed with the desired DNA sequence for synthesis.
Joseph A. Menosky, “Cheap, Fast Designer Genes,” The Washington Post, September 6, 1981, C1.
Untitled Essay by Leon E. Barstow, President of Vega Biotechnologies, from Accession File.
Accession File 1984.0719, National Museum of American History.
Currently not on view
Object Name
polynucleotide synthesizer
solid phase chemistry module, polynucleotide synthesizer
overall: 51 cm x 54.3 cm x 33.3 cm; 20 3/32 in x 21 3/8 in x 13 1/8 in
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Science & Mathematics
Science & Scientific Instruments
Biotechnology and Genetics
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Medicine
Biotechnology and Genetics
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Additional Media

Visitor Comments

Add a comment about this object

**Please read before submitting the form**

Have a comment or question about this object to share with the community? Please use the form below. Selected comments will appear on this page and may receive a museum response (but we can't promise). Please note that we generally cannot answer questions about the history, rarity, or value of your personal artifacts.

Have a question about anything else, or would you prefer a personal response? Please visit our FAQ or contact page.

Personal information will not be shared or result in unsolicited e-mail. See our privacy policy.

Enter the characters shown in the image.