Three weeks ago, 130 scientists, entrepreneurs and policy leaders held an invitation-only, closed-door meeting at Harvard University to discuss an ambitious plan to create synthetic human genomes. Now, after a flurry of criticism over the secrecy of the effort, the participants have published their idea, declaring that they're launching a project to radically reduce the cost of synthesizing genomes -- a potentially revolutionary development in biotechnology that could enable technicians to grow human organs for transplantation.
The announcement, published Thursday in the journal Science, is the latest sign that biotechnology is going through a rapidly advancing but ethically fraught period.
Ref: The Genome Project–Write. Science (2 June 2016) | DOI: 10.1126/science.aaf6850
The Human Genome Project (“HGP-read”) nominally completed in 2004 aimed to sequence the human genome and improve technology, cost, and quality of DNA sequencing (1, 2). It was biology’s first genome-scale project, and at the time was considered controversial by some. Now it is recognized as one of the great feats of exploration, one that has revolutionized science and medicine.
Although sequencing, analyzing, and editing DNA continue to advance at breakneck pace, the capability to construct DNA sequences in cells is mostly limited to a small number of short segments, restricting the ability to manipulate and understand biological systems. Further understanding of genetic blueprints could come from construction of large, gigabase (Gb)–sized animal and plant genomes, including the human genome, which would in turn drive development of tools and methods to facilitate large-scale synthesis and editing of genomes. To this end, we propose the Human Genome Project–Write (HGP-write).