The biology maverick, Craig Venter, has rapidly taken the next step in creating custom organisms (link below to news article).
Recently, his team managed to test if they could replace a genome in a bacteria with one of their choosing. Now they took the next step and stitched together a whole genome.
He’s taking the right first steps. But, just keep in mind that there are many intermediate steps in what he is doing. He’s using existing organisms to help him build and grow the sequences he needs, something done in labs all the time.
That’s fine. I don’t think his goal is some purist ideal of creating a synthetic organism from scratch. I think his goal is to be able to create an organism that does exactly as he wants it. Hence, the first step was being able to prove he could hi-jack the whole machinery of a cell by replacing the genome. Next, he then creates a completely synthetic genome, based on an existing sequence, but with ‘watermarks’ and some deletions (for control reason). Which is what he’s done now.
I think his next step is to create 1) larger and larger genomes; 2) a set of lab organisms based on synthetic genomes to be used as a foundation for creating products (whatever they may be).
Heh, once again, this guy is radically changing the face of biology.
The genome for the pathogenic bacterium Mycoplasma genitalium was made in the laboratory by Hamilton Smith and his colleagues at the J. Craig Venter Institute in Rockville, Maryland. The genome has 582,970 of the fundamental building blocks of DNA, called nucleotide bases, making it more than a factor of ten longer than the previous-longest stretch of genetic material created by chemical means.