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Synthetic Biology: Great Promise and Potential Peril

• Jeremy Hsu via LiveScience
Washington, D.C. – Designer organisms created from scratch in genomics labs won't  run amok anytime soon, according to scientists speaking at the first public meeting of President Obama's bioethics commission held here in the nation's capital last week.

But everyone agreed that now is the best time to shape synthetic biology in a way that boosts innovation and hedges against future risks related to biosecurity and biosafety. The uncertain power and perils of synthetic biology still present the greatest challenges, along with the future spread of such technology in the hands of so-called garage biologists.

The commission convened in response to last month's announcement of the first synthetic genome transplantation into a living cell, when molecular biologist J. Craig Venter and other researchers at his institute essentially replaced the genome of a Mycoplasma capricolum cell with an artificially built genome based on the bacterium Mycoplasma mycoides.

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