20 May 2017

Synthetic life – can we build it?

From This Way Up, 12:15 pm on 20 May 2017

In 2003, The Human Genome Project successfully read and published an entire human genome – 3 billion base pairs that make up the code of life. 

It took a global team of scientists 13 years and cost billions of dollars, but it ushered in a new era of medicine, as well as technology now used to sequence and read DNA in the lab. 

Today you can get your genome read for under $1000, and now scientists want to create new genomes from scratch. 

At the recent GP-write conference in New York, 250 people from 10 countries gathered to discuss ethics and to pitch ideas, from plants that can sniff out explosives to microbes that could be used to fight obesity. 

Sharon Begley is a senior science writer at STAT who was at the conference.

"As scientists aiming to create genomes from scratch see it, nature had her chance — 3.8 billion years, to be precise, the length of time that life on Earth has been evolving and, supposedly, getting more finely adapted and more complex. Now it’s the turn of scientists, who think they can do better." Sharon Begley in STAT