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Video: San Fran startup Cambrian Genomics set to edit your embryo’s DNA

| July 11, 2014
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This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation.

The topic of three-parent children, created by using the mitochondrial DNA of a female donor, the mother’s DNA and the father’s DNA, has been the subject of much controversy and discussion lately. But, what if instead of that third human donor, a computer created chunks of DNA to replace some dodgy spots in your child’s genome?

Enter Cambrian Genomics, a San Francisco-based genetics startup that is innovating high volume DNA synthesis with the goal of making synthetic DNA a consumer product.

In a recent Wall Street Journal video, Deborah Kan asked CEO Austen Heinz how his technology will be applied to genetic editing of human disease:

“I can’t imagine in 10 to 20 years people would not design their children digitally. It would be thought of as insane or barbaric.”

Heinz did not comment on the application of his technology beyond the elimination of disease-carrying alleles from an embryo’s genome. But surely, there is also profit to be made in offering parents the ability to increase the likelihood of having a taller child, a more athletic child or a more intelligent child.

Cambrian’s vague website doesn’t offer answers to these ethical questions or provide a timeline for when their product would be available. But this is just one application of the company’s technology. Heinz views Cambrian as a provider of synthetic DNA for an emerging business market where small companies will use designer DNA to engineer lifeforms that solve all manner of the world’s problems.

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The GLP featured this article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion and analysis. The viewpoint is the author’s own. The GLP’s goal is to stimulate constructive discourse on challenging science issues.

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