March 6, 2008
Can current approaches to doing science sustain us over the next one hundred years? An increasing reliance on technological fixes to global challenges — including nanotechnology — demands a radical rethink of how we use science in the service of society.
Over the next century we will perhaps be facing the greatest challenge in the history of humanity: sustaining six billion plus people on a planet where natural resources are running scarce and our every action results in a palpable environmental reaction. Progress towards sustainability will only come through integrating relevant science with socially-responsible decision making. Yet the science policy dogmas of the 20th century may be stretched to breaking point in the face of 21st century challenges. Read the rest of this entry »
January 26, 2008
The popular computer game “SimLife” allows users to create and manipulate virtual people. But what are the chances of us one day being able to do the same with real organisms: building new life-forms out of basic chemicals, so “SimLife” becomes “SynLife”?
This week’s announcement by J. Craig Venter’s team (and the associated paper in Science) that they have successfully synthesized the complete genome of the bacterium Mycoplasma genitalium is an important step towards achieving what is becoming known as “synthetic biology”. By constructing complete DNA sequences from scratch, the door is being opened to transforming common laboratory chemicals into new living organisms; that are engineered with specific purposes in mind. And perhaps not surprisingly, this manipulation of DNA at the nanoscale is increasingly being seen as part of the “nanotechnology revolution”.
But is synthetic biology really nanotechnology? Read the rest of this entry »