‘Fully customizable’ genome: Replacing yeast’s 12.5 million base pairs piece by piece

| | February 22, 2018

Homo sapiens has had a tight relationship with Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the unicellular fungus better known as brewer’s yeast.

That doesn’t mean S. cerevisiae can’t be further improved—at least not if Jef Boeke has his way. The director of the Institute for Systems Genetics at New York University’s Langone Health, Boeke is leading an international team of hundreds dedicated to synthesizing the 12.5 million genetic letters that make up a yeast’s cells genome.

In practice, that means gradually replacing each yeast chromosome—there are 16 of them—with DNA fabricated on stove-size chemical synthesizers. As they go, Boeke and collaborators at nearly a dozen institutions are streamlining the yeast genome and putting in back doors to let researchers shuffle its genes at will. In the end, the synthetic yeast—called Sc2.0—will be fully customizable.

The result is high-speed, human-driven evolution: millions of new yeast strains with different properties can be tested in the lab for fitness and function in applications like, eventually, medicine and industry. [Postdoctoral fellow Leslie] Mitchell predicts that in time, Sc2.0 will displace all the ordinary yeast in scientific labs.

Sc2.0 may end up being the second most important achievement ever to feature yeast—after beer.

Read full, original post: In the future we won’t edit genomes—we’ll just print out new ones

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