May 12, 2017

Scientists want to build a human genome

Anthony Camerano / AP

A group of scientists calling themselves the "Genome Project-write" wants to revolutionize species creation as you know it: they're figuring out how to write entire genomes to then build thousands of different species, per the Atlantic.

The controversy: Building — and especially, editing — a human genome presents some moral hazards. From a Stanford synthetic biologist and Northwestern bioethicist who pushed back against the project: "The creation of new human life is one of the last human-associated processes that has not yet been industrialized or fully commodified."

The progress: A bacterium had its million-letter genome synthesized in 2010 and baker's yeast's 12 million-letter genome might be built this year — but a human's genome is almost 300 times larger than that. And the expected cost of building a human genome is $30 million, though GP-write hopes to knock that down to $100,000 by 2020.

Possible applications: Creating lab-grown organs for transplant or synthetic virus-resistant human cells that can create medicines and vaccines in laboratory settings.

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