Introduction & Goals
If living organisms are hardware, then DNA is the software which runs a program of life itself.
- Over 30 years after the Human Genome Project was first conceived, a group of 25 researchers proposed a harmonizing effort in whole-genome synthesis in the year 2016.
- The official name of this project was first proposed as Human Genome Project – Write (HGP-Write) but now its name changed to GP-Write as HGP-Write also comes with some ethical & moral issues.
- This Project aims to artificially synthesize a genome or human genome from scratch and “reduce the costs of engineering & testing large genomes (0.1 to 100 billion bp) in cell lines by over 1000-folds within 10 years. GP-Write leverages two decades of work on synthetic biology and artificial gene synthesis.
- This Project is managed by “Centre of excellence for engineering biology” which includes world known Scientists like Jef Boeke, George Church, Andrew Hessel and some ethicists for social management.
The ultimate mission of this project is to understand the blueprint of life & then to write it.
As great physicist ‘Richard Feynman’ said, “What I cannot create, I do not understand”.
How the GP-write started?
It all started with great scientist Har Gobind Khorana with the collaborative contribution of his colleagues when they in-vitro synthesized 77-bp tRNA gene in 1970. Since then Researchers have gradually been scaling up DNA synthesis from genes to genomes.
- It took until the early 2000s before the first whole genome were synthesized: the 9.6-kb genome of Hepatitis C virus in 2000, the 7.5-kb genome of Poliovirus & 5.4-kb genome of Bacteriophage phi x 174.
- Researchers at J. Craig Venter Institute then took construction step further building entirely synthetic replicas of prokaryotic genomes with the synthesis of the 583-kb Mycoplasma genitalium genome in 2008 and synthesis & booting of 1.08-Mb Mycoplasma mycoides genome in 2010.
- In March 2016, they published a 473-gene reduced version of Mycoplasma mycoides, representing the smallest self-replicating organisms known.
The Future with GP-Write
If in the next 10 years the GP-Write does create a complete synthetic human genome, a future that many people fear will then be one giant step closer.
That future is one in which someone, somewhere starts putting synthetic human genomes into germ cells & attempts to create live offspring and the ultrasafe approaches proposed will do nothing to prevent that.
But scientists have made it clear that this is not their intention. Even Jef Boeke quoted that ” We are not trying to make an army of clones or start a new era of eugenics. This is not the plan.”
But there needs to an acknowledgement that this project takes us one giant step closer to that reality.