Darpa, Venter Launch Assembly Line for Genetic Engineering
2012 06 05

By Katie Drummond | Wired.com



The military-industrial complex just got a little bit livelier. Quite literally.

That’s because Darpa, the Pentagon’s far-out research arm, has kicked off a program designed to take the conventions of manufacturing and apply them to living cells. Think of it like an assembly line, but one that would churn out modified biological matter — man-made organisms — instead of cars or computer parts.

The program, called “Living Foundries,” was first announced by the agency last year. Now, Darpa’s handed out seven research awards worth $15.5 million to six different companies and institutions. Among them are several Darpa favorites, including the University of Texas at Austin and the California Institute of Technology. Two contracts were also issued to the J. Craig Venter Institute. Dr. Venter [left] is something of a biology superstar: He was among the first scientists to sequence a human genome, and his institute was, in 2010, the first to create a cell with entirely synthetic genome.

“Living Foundries” aspires to turn the slow, messy process of genetic engineering into a streamlined and standardized one. Of course, the field is already a burgeoning one: Scientists have tweaked cells in order to develop renewable petroleum and spider silk that’s tough as steel. And a host of companies are investigating the pharmaceutical and agricultural promise lurking — with some tinkering, of course — inside living cells.

But those breakthroughs, while exciting, have also been time-consuming and expensive. As Darpa notes, even the most cutting-edge synthetic biology projects “often take 7+ years and tens to hundreds of millions of dollars” to complete. Venter’s synthetic cell project, for example, cost an estimated $40 million.

Synthetic biology, as Darpa notes, has the potential to yield “new materials, novel capabilities, fuel and medicines” — everything from fuels to solar cells to vaccines could be produced by engineering different living cells. But the agency isn’t content to wait seven years for each new innovation. In fact, they want the capability for “on-demand production” of whatever bio-product suits the military’s immediate needs.

To do it, Darpa will need to revamp the process of bio-engineering — from the initial design of a new material, to its construction, to its subsequent efficacy evaluation. The starting point, and one that agency-funded researchers will have to create, is a library of “modular genetic parts”: Standardized biological units that can be assembled in different ways — like LEGO — to create different materials.

Once that library is created, the agency wants researchers to come up with a set of “parts, regulators, devices and circuits” that can reliably yield various genetic systems. After that, they’ll also need “test platforms” to quickly evaluate new bio-materials. Think of it as a biological assembly line: Products are designed, pieced together using standardized tools and techniques, and then tested for efficacy.

The process, once established, ought to massively accelerate the pace of bio-engineering — and cut costs. The agency’s asking researchers to “compress the biological design-build-test cycle by at least 10X in both time and cost,” while also “increasing the complexity of systems that can be designed and executed.”

No doubt, Darpa’s making some big asks of the scientists tasked with this research. And not everyone’s convinced they’ll pull it off. “The biology will fight them,” Daniel Drell, a program manager with the U.S. Department of Energy, predicted last year. Which suggests it might be a few years, at least, before Darpa’s bio-creations try to fight us.



Article from: wired.com

Top Image: GettyImages, Wired.com, Photo: VA, Edited: EL RIC 2012








Related Articles
J. Craig Venter Create Synthetic Life - Could it Wipe out Humanity?
Craig Venter creates first synthetic life form
Dr. J. Craig Venter - A DNA-Driven World from The Richard Dimbleby Lecture 2007 (Video)
Transhumansm; Merging With Technology
Technocalyps - Transhumanist´s Wet Dreams (Video)
Scrapheap Transhumanism: DIY RFID
The White Savior Industrial Complex
Profit Driven Prison Industrial Complex: The Economics of Incarceration in the USA
The Ultimate Oxymoron: Industrial Civilization and Mental Health
Eisenhower’s Military Industrial Complex address completely misunderstood?
Ike was right all along: The danger of the military-industrial complex
ImClone Ex-Chief Embarks on New Biotech Venture - Kadmon
Obama Orders US Government To Begin Preparing For Biological Attack
MBTA to test biological attack sensors in Boston Subway System
Biological terror attack likely by 2013, panel says
Scientists use ’biological alchemy’ to convert one cell type into another


Latest News from our Front Page

Recent Israeli Synagogue Attack, a Possible False Flag?
2014 11 21
Dear Friends - I woke up yesterday morning to see a newspaper lying on the kitchen table with the front page proclaiming that five people were slain in an Israeli synagogue after a so-called "Palestinian attack." Some members of the media said that four people were killed, others said five, so it seems like that there was some confusion (or ...
The Michael Brown Shooting, Race Baiting for Political Power and Militarization of the Police
2014 11 21
From Youtube: The evidence clearly shows that Officer Darren Wilson was justified in shooting Michael Brown, so why is this case being hyped by the mainstream media and the leftist political establishment?
Ancient Aryan Mummies and Pyramids of China
2014 11 21
After years of controversy and political intrigue, archaeologists using genetic testing have proven that Caucasians roamed China’s Tarim Basin thousands of years before East Asian people arrived. The research, which the Chinese government has appeared to have delayed making public out of concerns of fueling Uighur Muslim separatism in its western-most Xinjiang region, is based on a cache of ancient dried-out ...
Detekt: A New Malware Detection Tool That Can Expose Illegitimate State Surveillance
2014 11 21
Recent years have seen a boom in the adoption of surveillance technology by governments around the world, including spyware that provides its purchasers the unchecked ability to target remote Internet users’ computers, to read their personal emails, listen in on private audio calls, record keystrokes and passwords, and remotely activate their computer’s camera or microphone. EFF, together with Amnesty International, ...
New UK spy chief says tech giants aid terrorism, privacy not ‘absolute right’
2014 11 21
Robert Hannigan, the new head of GCHQ The new head of Britain’s GCHQ, the UK equivalent of the NSA in the U.S., said he believes privacy is not an absolute right and that tech giants must open themselves up to intelligence agencies. “GCHQ is happy to be part of a mature debate on privacy in the digital age,” Hannigan said. “But privacy ...
More News »