In DepthSynthetic Biology

Genome writing project confronts technology hurdles

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Science  19 May 2017:
Vol. 356, Issue 6339, pp. 673-674
DOI: 10.1126/science.356.6339.673

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More than 250 scientists, entrepreneurs, and ethicists assembled in New York City last week to discuss Genome Project–write (GP-write), which aims to build large stretches of synthetic DNA and put them to work in cells. The still-unfunded project promises better and cheaper DNA-writing technology that could help treat and study diseases or create more sustainable food and energy sources. But questions remain about whether GP-write should pursue an original goal, championed by co-founder and futurist Andrew Hessel, of assembling the 3 billion DNA bases of the human genome. In the meantime, the initiative aims to support technology-advancing "pilot projects" that modify cells from various organisms. But technical challenges—from the cost of DNA synthesis to genetic circuit design—loom large.