In May 2016, scientists, lawyers and government representatives converged at Harvard to discuss the Human Genome Project-Write (HGP-Write), a plan to build whole genomes out of chemically synthesised DNA. It will build on the $3 billion (£2.3bn) Human Genome Project, which mapped each letter in the human genome.
“Moving beyond reading DNA to writing DNA is a natural next step,” concedes Francis Collins, director of the US National Institutes of Health. He warns, however, that any project with real-world implications would require “extensive discussion from different perspectives, most especially including the general public”.
[N]one of the project’s deliverables will be “as exciting or as evocative as a baby”, [Andrew Hessel, a researcher with the Bio/Nano research group at software company Autodesk] says. “Some of the things that were said [after the meeting] were so ludicrous that it allowed us to get through that bubble of misinformation and misinterpretation quickly.”
“I want it to be as open and transparent as possible,” says Hessel, “and to keep up as much interest in this powerful universal technology, which will enable us to bring our intention into the machinery we call life. And boy, do we need to get good at it.”
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