Venter says ‘synthetic life coming’

Dick Ahlstrom in the Irish Times:

ScreenHunter_07 Jul. 13 17.15The world may soon see the first examples of synthetic life, artificial organisms constructed in a laboratory. These will be unique organisms, not close copies of existing cells, said their creator Dr Craig Venter…

He and his laboratory in California were well on the way towards assembling a unique living organism, one unknown to exist anywhere else on the planet.

Two years ago he reported having built a living organism. “This was a proof of concept,” Dr Venter said. “It wasn’t identical to any existing cell but we wanted it to live.” For that reason it was modelled on another cell.

Things had progressed significantly however. His team are currently designing three different organisms, adding blocks of DNA that have been seen to be essential for sustaining life, he said. They do not know what design will produce a living organism so they decided to produce several.

Once designed these would then be built using DNA sequencing machines and the genetic package would then be popped into a hollowed out cell.

The work was made particularly difficult because geneticists still do not know the function of many of the genes seen in living organisms. “We don’t know all the first principles,” he said.

He had no doubt however that they would achive their goal. “I am hoping it will happen this year.”

More here.