Dr. J. Craig Venter, the scientist, entrepreneur and genomic pioneer, has often been accused of sensationalism in the past. Whether this is due to the intrinsically sensational nature of his accomplishments or the scale of claims on future work, remains to be seen. In any case, Dr. Venter has revealed some pretty spectacular details of a new DNA synthesizing machine. In an interview for The Guardian newspaper, Venter describes this new device which was created by his company Synthetic Genomics.
Dubbed the digital-biological converter (DBC), it is capable of downloading and synthesizing digitally transmitted DNA sequences from remote sources via the web. The DBC is partially built on the same underlying technology which led to Dr. Venter’s announcement in 2010 that he and his team had created the first synthetic bacterial cell.
The DARPA funded prototype is currently only capable of synthesizing DNA strands, but may be able to synthesize proteins and living cells in the future. With a length of eight feet and a height of six, the DBC prototype is not very portable, but miniaturization work is ongoing.
Naturally, Dr. Venter sees the potential applications for the technology as being diverse, ranging from transmission of DNA sequences of alien lifeforms from Mars for study on Earth (once we find them), as well as vaccine and cell synthesis for public health initiatives. He also made reference to a “digitized life sending unit,” which will facilitate an end to end system for biological transportation. It looks like Wonka-Vision has finally arrived.
Interview in The Guardian: Craig Venter: ‘This isn’t a fantasy look at the future. We are doing the future’
Link: Synthetic Genomics…