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
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
Chess-playing computers may cause the robot apocalypse
2014 04 23
Sore-loser chess programs might be the end of us all...
In the movie The Terminator, we heard the human side of the story of Judgment Day, with the machines getting smart and seeing us as a threat. It wasn’t until the sequel that we heard the tale from the machine’s point of view, as it chose to start World War III ...
Archeologists’ findings may prove Rome a century older than thought
2014 04 23
It is already known as the eternal city, and if new archeological findings prove correct Rome may turn out to be even more so than believed until now.
Next week, the city will celebrate its official, 2,767th birthday. According to a tradition going back to classic times, the brothers Romulus and Remus founded the city on 21 April in the year ...
Swedish MP ordered chemtrail probe
2014 04 23
A Swedish MP who launched an official government investigation into the existence of chemtrails tells The Local why he thinks Swedes deserve the truth, even if it may leave some conspiracy theorists unsatisfied.
"I can’t speak for other MPs, but I’ve had many, many calls over the past eight years about chemtrails. And these questions are not so easy to answer," ...
Mystery of Bizarre Duck-Like Ocean Sound
2014 04 23
If it quacks like a duck... it’s not always a duck.
Scientists have reportedly gotten to the bottom of the mysterious ’Bio-Duck’ sound in the Antarctic.
Here’s a recording of the strange sound (it’s kind of a stretch to say it sounds like a duck, but who are we to second guess the biologists?).
Mystery of Bizarre Duck-Like Ocean Sound Solved
By Tanya Lewis ...
’Extreme’ Carbon Dioxide Reduction will be a Death Sentence for Humanity & Planet Earth
2014 04 23
If we allow a fraudulent pseudo-environmentalist cult to control every aspect of our lives then our children are doomed to a totalitarian existence which Stalin could only have dreamed of.
“The common enemy of humanity is man.
In searching for a new enemy to unite us, we came up with the idea that pollution, the threat of global warming, water shortages, famine ...
|More News » |