Craig Venter, Synthetic Bio, Biomech, and Bugs

The New York Times has published a sketch of Venter, a person who, like Steve Jobs, William Randolph Hearst, Meg Whitman, Andrew Carnegie, and other titans of science and industry, may well precipitate world-shaking change through an unshakable belief in oneself and the power to make things happen by force of will. Synthetic biology may be rising in garage labs around the world, with mail-order DNA and cut-rate retorts – but in addition there are individuals like Venter who command a veritable army of researchers (500, if the article is accurate), and a well-funded laboratory. Money can’t buy love, but it can pay salaries, and 500 minds working together is nothing to sneeze at… unless they let loose a bio-engineered coronavirus, that is.

“In the menagerie of Craig Venter’s imagination, tiny bugs will save the world. They will be custom bugs, designer bugs — bugs that only Venter can create. …Each of the bugs will have a mission. Some will be designed to devour things, like pollution. Others will generate food and fuel. There will be bugs to fight global warming, bugs to clean up toxic waste, bugs to manufacture medicine and diagnose disease, and they will all be driven to complete these tasks by the very fibers of their synthetic DNA.

“What’s strange about Venter is that this works — that the clarity he finds when he is hurtling through the sea and the sky, the dreams he summons, the fantasies he concocts in his most unhinged moments of excess actually have a way of coming true. He dreamed of mapping the human genome, and he did it. He dreamed of creating a synthetic organism, and he made it.”

Reference: New York Times

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