Despite ethical and safety concerns, researchers are getting closer to building life from scratch.
In fact, scientists are hoping to synthesize a human genome in the next 10 years. Investors are putting huge amounts of money into research that may deliver novel drugs, materials and chemicals.
Some of the projects were highlighted at a synthetic biology conference in London April 4-6.
While existing biotechnology is already used to make medicines like insulin and genetically modified crops, synthesising whole genes or genomes gives an opportunity for far more extensive changes.
Matt Ocko, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist whose past investments include Facebook, Uber and Zynga, believes the emerging industry has passed the “epiphany” moment needed to prove it can deliver economic value.
He said: ”Synthetic biology companies are now becoming more like the disruptive, industrial-scale value propositions that define any technology business.
“The things that sustain and accelerate this industry are today more effective, lower cost, more precise and more repeatable. That makes it easier to extract disruptive value.”
Experts meeting in London this week said the science toolkit was improving fast and the cost of synthesising DNA was now 100 times cheaper than in 2003, although uncertainties remain about regulation and the public’s appetite for tinkering with life.
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