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The "new frontier" of synthetic biology

In case you didn't see it, the San Jose Mercury News ran a story over the weekend on the field of synthetic biology and the work of several Bay Area scientists, including Stanford's Drew Endy, PhD. Writes Lisa Krieger:

It's not yet possible to create artificial life from scratch. But it's getting closer, through projects that essentially swap out a cell's original operating system for a lab-designed one. These made-to-order creations then can be put to work.

The Human Genome Project gave us the ability to read nature's instruction manual -- DNA -- like words in a book. But the real opportunities, scientists say, lie in our ability to not only read genetic code, but to write it, then build it using off-the-shelf chemical ingredients, strung together like holiday lights. It is the creation of new genomes -- and a new frontier in bioengineering.

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"Syn biologists" are engineers who construct whole new genomes -- using made-to-order parts from foundries, or "fabs," much as industry orders up cast and machined metal parts. UC-Berkeley researcher Chris Anderson is building tumor-killing bacteria. In Emeryville, Amyris Biotechnologies adds genes to yeast or bacteria to make novel biofuels. The company LS9 of San Carlos is engineering bacteria that can make hydrocarbons for gasoline, diesel and jet fuel.

Previously: Cracking the code of 1000 (make that 1092!) genomes, Scientists announce the completion of the ENCODE project, a massive genome encyclopedia, Drew Endy discusses developing rewritable digital data storage in DNA and Drew Endy discusses programming DNA and hacking biology

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