Six visionary research proposals will vie for huge grants from the European Commission’s Future and Emerging Technologies Flagship scheme. The two winning projects, to be announced in the latter half of the year, will each receive €1 billion (US$1.3 billion) over the next decade. In the running are projects on graphene, the promising new form of carbon; robot companions for the lonely; planetary-scale modelling of human activities and their environmental impact; autonomous energy-scavenging sensors; ways to apply research data more efficiently in health care; and a supercomputer simulation of the brain.
A useful synthetic genome
Synthetic biologists can build entire genomes from scratch, working from natural models, and they can also rewire the genetic circuitry of living things. But so far, no one has united the two approaches: Craig Venter’s synthetic genome of 2010 was cribbed wholesale from a bacterium and contained no new genetic circuitry beyond a DNA watermark. Might 2012 see the first really useful artificial genome?