AskPang Synthetic Genome image

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Synthetic biology – the race is on to write the first human genome!

How do you follow up The Human Genome Project? With a sequel. ‘HGP2: The Human Genome Synthesis Project’. Thoroughly exciting as that sounds, the project has now been renamed to the less exciting ‘HGP-Write: Testing Large Synthetic Genomes in Cells’. Frivolity aside, this is big news. The project aims “to synthesize a complete human genome in a cell line within a period of 10 years.” Those are the words of George Church, who is one of the organisers of the project.

The project was discussed at a meeting at Harvard Medical School, in Boston, this month. The meeting was held ‘behind closed doors’, meaning that participants were asked not to speak to the media or post on twitter during the meeting. If you open up your web browser and type in ‘secret meeting on synthetic DNA’, you can see how it’s been taken. Yes, the meeting was behind closed doors, but it’s not quite what you’d call a ‘secret meeting’. Word has it, that the organisers have a high impact publication in the works that they can’t talk about openly yet.

The project is currently unfunded, but companies, foundations, and the NIH will be invited to contribute. The story was picked up by most major media, including The New York Times with this wonderful article by Andrew Pollack. Sharon Begley also put together this lovely guide to George Church for STAT. For all you autograph hunters out there, George Church is also going to be at the Festival of Genomics with his presentation ‘Reading and Writing Omes