Basic Research

Learn more about NEB’s commitment to basic research


At New England Biolabs, life science isn't just a business. It's a way of life. Long term basic research programs have been a priority from day one. A major focus of the basic research group has always been understanding enzyme structure and function, whether it be restriction enzymes, modifying enzymes or polymerases. This has led to several advances in restriction enzyme research and polymerase development, including engineered enzymes with increased, decreased or altered site specific recognition. Other areas of focus include epigenetics, RNA research, glycobiology, parasitology and optimizing protein expression in organisms such as E. coli to name a few. As a result, NEB scientists have published more than 700 peer-reviewed papers.


Jim Ellard:

New England Biolabs was started by a scientist, Don Comb, not a businessman. And so we always had a big focus on basic research, basic and applied research have coexisted here at New England Biolabs since the beginning, for over 37 years.


Bill Jack:

We are involved in experiments and research which we believe is important, significant and exciting. Ones that we are prepared and willing to share with other people and happy to do so.


Richard Roberts:

There is a very collaborative attitude among the scientists here in the company. We have external seminars coming in, external speakers coming in at least once a week, sometimes twice a week. We get involved in a lot of community outreach activities, we help with the school science fairs. And in the summer, we bring in a large number of students as interns. And I think it is very important that the company, the scientists working here, behave as scientists. Most of the products that we've come up with over the years have come up because we're researchers. We work in the lab, we're doing experiments, we're asking questions and we need reagents. And so we see what a typical researcher needs and in many cases, can anticipate the kind of things that they would need because they're things that we would need.


Bill Jack:

The basic core of what we do can be called genomics or DNA manipulation. It is the involvement of the core enzymes that we think of when we think of New England Biolabs, namely the enzymes that I refer to as the scissors, the copy machines, the glue, and the shredders. The restriction enzymes, the polymerases, the ligases and also the nucleus that occur. Our research, though, has spread into other areas. New England Biolabs from the very early days has been involved in protein expression. Our experience in working with E. coli cells has given us a great advantage in being able to express proteins in highly purified form. We've also expanded our operations in looking at glycobiology. New England Biolabs, I believe, provides a strong foundation for advances in this field to where we can finally understand not only what carbohydrates might decorate proteins in the cell, but also actually begin to understand exactly how they function. Epigenetics is probably the most exciting field that people are studying today. One of the primary focuses of epigenetics over time has been the modification of DNA, specifically CpG methylation. New England Biolabs knows methylases very well, because for every restriction enzyme we sell, there is accompanied methyltransferase.


Richard Roberts:

I think our intention from the very start was that we were going to do research that was not only product oriented. You know, in the West we tend to focus on those diseases that affect us, like flu and the common cold, and we've not paid a lot of attention to diseases that affect the third world.


Tilde Carlow:

For 30 years we've actually been working in the area of lymphatic filariasis and onchocerciasis cases. It affects about 150 million people worldwide and there's about a billion people at risk of this infection. The main goal of our research here is to perform basic research on these parasitic worms that cause these diseases and hope to translate that into new drugs and new diagnostic tools that will help control these infections.


Donald Comb:

One of our main goals is to try to eliminate some of these horrible diseases of the developing world so that they can have the same standard of living that we have.


Richard Roberts:

It's something that has no commercial value to us as far as we're concerned. We're not interested in the commercial value, we basically we give away all the rights to anything we find here, but I think it's very indicative of the philosophy that we've had as a company.


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