Synthetic Biology Explained and Explored in Regenesis

Monday, March 18, 2013

Synthetic Biology
In the future, human beings have become immune to all viruses, in which bacteria can custom-produce everyday items, like a drinking cup, or generate enough electricity to end oil dependency. Building a house would entail no more work than planting a seed in the ground. These scenarios may seem far-fetched, but pioneering geneticist George Church and science writer Ed Regis show that synthetic biology is bringing us ever closer to making such visions a reality. In Regenesis, Church and Regis explore the possibilities—and perils—of the emerging field of synthetic biology. 
Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves, the recent book by George Church and Ed Regis provides a fascinating overview of the emerging discipline of synthetic biology and the wonders it can produce: from new drugs and vaccines to biofuels and resurrected wooly mammoths.

Geneticist Church and science writer Regis team up to explore how scientists are now altering the nature of living organisms by modifying their genomes, or genetic makeup. Recounting the evolution of life forms from the Hadean geologic era (3.8 billion years ago) through the present, the authors describe the raw material with which geneticists are working to create new organisms. With biotech hobbyists now at work in garages, the authors also urge the establishment of safety measures to keep people safe and engineered organisms under control.

The authors provide a mind-bending, tour de force account of how this seventh industrial revolution will take hold, and how ultimately the survival of our planet and the human species may rely upon rewriting the code of life. An enthralling journey into the future—with truly profound implications—that should not be missed.

Explaining some of the concepts in the book at a recent talk at Microsoft Research (embedded below), Church discussed how synthetic biology is rapidly advancing.  His chart below compares DNA sequencing cost vs. Moore's Law for electronics:

Synthetic Biology vs Moore's Law

Stewart Brand, author of Whole Earth Discipline who recently recommended Regenesis during his TED Talk said of the book:

“Here you will find the bleeding, screaming, thrilling edges of what is becoming possible with genomic engineering, handsomely framed in the fine-grained fundamentals of molecular biology. It is a combination primer and forecast of what is coming in this ‘century of biology’ from the perspective of a leading pioneer in the science.”

Church has also been in the headlines lately with his promotion and activity with the Brain Activity Map.  Church believes the project will not only give us greater understanding in neuroscience, but will be a boon for the economy, “If you look at the total spending in neuroscience and nanoscience that might be relative to this today, we are already spending more than that. We probably won’t spend less money, but we will probably get a lot more bang for the buck.”

SOURCE  Microsoft Research

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