But the same characteristics that make it promising also create profound questions, particularly in terms of who will profit. Can you own or patent synthetic organisms? How will researchers access the genetic materials needed to do research? Will big companies be able to dictate who can participate in research?
Craig Venter, a genomics pioneer and co-founder of Synthetic Genomics, announced that he and his team had produced the world’s first synthetic life form….But the patent applications sparked a visceral response, and in an interview with the BBC, British biologist John Sulston denounced the move as “damaging.”
On one side is Venter, continuing biotechnology’s legacy of leaning hard on intellectual property protections.
On the other side is the open-source counterculture inherited from computer science and engineering. In those fields, researchers typically share their findings in public repositories.
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