Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Synthetic Biology Makes Scary Headlines, but Universities Promote It as a Lifesaver

But there is a far more compelling story about how this field, known as synthetic biology, is taking shape, largely on university campuses. It is not primarily about making new life forms. It is, rather, a major tactical upgrade in the long-running search for better medicines, fuels, and renewable materials. So over the past several years, a team led by Berkeley Lab's Jay D. Keasling, a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at the University of California at Berkeley, has been taking the necessary genes from the wormwood, implanting them into a strain of E. coli bacteria, and growing large quantities of artemisinin. "This has the potential for revolutionizing the treatment of a very deadly and prevalent disease," said the head of President Obama's bioethics commission, Amy Gutmann, president of the University of Pennsylvania. More>