Patent sought on 'synthetic life'
2007-06-10 0:00

From: news.bbc.co.uk


Craig Venter has been working for years on a man-made organism.
Scientists working to build a life form from scratch have applied to patent the broad method they plan to use to create their "synthetic organism".

Dr Craig Venter, the man who led the private sector effort to sequence the human genome, has been working for years to create a man-made organism.

But constructing a primitive microbe from a kit of genes is a daunting task.

Dr Venter says, eventually, these life forms could be designed to make biofuels and absorb greenhouse gases.

The publication of the patent application has angered some environmentalists.

The Canada-based ETC group, which monitors developments in biotechnology, called on patent offices to reject applications on synthetic life forms.

The J Craig Venter Institute's US patent application claims exclusive ownership of a set of essential genes and a synthetic "free-living organism that can grow and replicate" made using those genes.

It has also filed an international application at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) which names more than 100 countries where the institute may seek monopoly patents.

'Gene kit'
Dr Venter's team intends to construct an organism with a "minimal genome" that can then be inserted into the shell of a bacterium.

By removing genes, one by one, from a bacterium called Mycoplasma genitalium they identified the minimum number of genes required for this particular organism to replicate, or reproduce, in its controlled environment.

They have been able to remove 101 of its 482 genes without killing the bacterium, meaning that 381 were required for replication.

But generating a man-made living organism from the bottom up requires much more than just its minimal genome.

For example, in order to get the genes to do something, there have to be chemicals to translate the genes into messenger RNA and proteins.

Scientists around the world have been wrestling with the task of generating a so-called free-living synthetic organism for years.

Environmental objection
The ETC Group says it will be writing to Dr Venter asking him to withdraw his institute's patent applications.

"We don't want to engage in a long-term legal strategy to slap down bad patents. These patents must be struck down before they're issued," said Hope Shand, a spokesperson for the group.

Jim Thomas, of ETC Group, added: "These monopoly claims signal the start of a high-stakes commercial race to synthesise and privatise synthetic life forms."

It said the company was pressing ahead with its work despite the fact the public had not had the chance to debate the "far-reaching social, ethical and environmental implications".

Dr Venter maintains that artificial life forms could produce solutions to global problems such as green sources of fuel and climate change.

The effort could result in "designer microbes" that produce biofuels such as ethanol, and hydrogen.

They could also be engineered to remove carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

Dr Venter first announced that scientists were working on creating synthetic life forms at a conference in California in 1999.

Article from: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/6733797.stm



Related Articles
DNA - Pirates of the Sacred Spiral - Dr Horowitz (Video)
I’ve found God, says man who cracked the genome
The discovery of DNA variability, holographic blueprints and the symphony of life
DNA Factories
Team develops DNA switch to interface living organisms with computers
Deep DNA memory theories: Can we remember our ancestors’ lives?


Latest News from our Front Page

West’s tributes to late Saudi King reveal hypocrisy not democracy
2015-01-27 2:16
Hypocrisy is not usually regarded as a virtue of leadership, yet judging by the gushing tributes paid to Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah by various Western governments and establishment figures on his death, there are those who believe it should be. In the UK this hypocrisy has been stretched to breaking point with the decision to fly the flags over Downing ...
Millions of GMO insects could be set loose in Florida Keys
2015-01-27 2:34
Millions of genetically modified mosquitoes could be released in the Florida Keys if British researchers win approval to use the bugs against two extremely painful viral diseases. Never before have insects with modified DNA come so close to being set loose in a residential U.S. neighborhood. "This is essentially using a mosquito as a drug to cure disease," said Michael Doyle, executive ...
Furguson Scared The Super - Rich So Bad They're Planning Exits
2015-01-27 0:22
According to a speaker at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Ferguson and Occupy absolutely terrified the world’s super-rich, and now they’re buying airstrips and farms in remote locations to escape to. At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, which was held between January 21-24, over 2,500 leaders in the fields of business, international politics, academia and journalism met to discuss ...
The Ring Of The Nibelungs
2015-01-27 0:20
Dark Kingdom: The Dragon King (also known as Ring of the Nibelungs, Die Nibelungen, Curse of the Ring, and Sword of Xanten) is a 2004 German television film directed by Uli Edel and starring Benno Fürmann, Alicia Witt, Kristanna Loken, and Max von Sydow. The film is based on the Norse mythology story Völsungasaga and the German epic poem Nibelungenlied, ...
Google Street View Shows NAACP Bombing a Hoax
2015-01-26 22:58
Caught in the act: NAACP passing off old soot marks as new in ‘bomb’ hoax NAACP Colorado Chapter President Henry D. Allen Jr. has been caught in the act of passing off old soot marks as new damage from the recent ‘explosion’ at the Colorado Springs chapter headquarters. Although Gotnews.com has previously remarked on the minimal damage as reported by the ...
More News »