Genetic Engineering

Extreme Genetic Engineering:
an Introduction to Synthetic biology

Genetic engineering on steroids,” the social, environmental and bio-weapons threats of synthetic biology surpass the possible dangers and abuses of biotech. Synbio is inspired by the convergence of nanoscale biology, computing and engineering. Using a laptop computer, publishedgene sequence information and mail-order synthetic DNA, just about anyone has the potential to construct genes or entire genomes from scratch (including those of lethal pathogens). Scientists predict that within 2-5 years it will be possible to synthesise any virus; the first de novo bacterium will make its debut in 2007; in 5-10 years simple bacterial genomes will be synthesised routinely and it will become no big deal to cobble together a designer genome, insert it into an empty bacterial cell and – voil? – give birth to a living, self-replicating organism. Other synthetic biologistshope to reconfigure the genetic pathways of existing organisms to perform new functions – suchas manufacturing high-value drugs or chemicals.

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