Ewan Callaway in Nature:
It took geneticist Craig Venter 15 years and US$40 million to synthesize the genome of a bacterial parasite. Today, an academic team made up mostly of undergraduate students reports the next leap in synthetic life: the redesign and production of a fully functional chromosome from the baker’s yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae.
As a eukaryote, a category that includes humans and other animals, S. cerevisiae has a more complex genome than Venter's parasite. The synthetic yeast chromosome — which has been stripped of some DNA sequences and other elements — is 272,871 base pairs long, representing about 2.5% of the 12-million-base-pair S. cerevisiae genome.The researchers, who report their accomplishment in Science1, have formed an international consortium to create a synthetic version of the full S. cerevisiae genome within 5 years. “This is a pretty impressive demonstration of not just DNA synthesis, but redesign of an entire eukaryotic chromosome,” says Farren Isaacs, a bioengineer at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, who was not involved in the work. “You can see that they are systematically paving the way for a new era of biology based on the redesign of genomes.” The project began a few years ago, when Jef Boeke, a yeast geneticist at New York University, set out to synthesize the baker’s yeast genome with much more drastic alterations than those demonstrated by Venter and his team in 2010.