Dr. Craig Venter from the J. Craig Venter Institute and his research team have taken a copy of an existing bacterial genome, inspected at all the DNA inside a bacterial cell, decoded that on a computer and then used the information to chemically construct a new genome. They synthesized a genome in their lab from scratch in 2010!
This new cell lives and it is replicated over a billion times already. They decided to name this synthetic cell Synthia. Why did they do this? According to Dr. Venter it will help us to understand life on the most intimate level and it helped to develop the tools to design new organisms.
But to what end? "I think they're going to potentially create a new industrial revolution if we can really get cells to do the production we want, if they could help wean us off of oil, and reverse some of the damage to the environment like capturing back carbon dioxide. I would be pretty satisfied with that outcome alone," says Dr. Venter.
One of the first applications would be vaccines. According to Dr. Venter, new vaccines could be developed in a day, where new flu vaccines have taken much longer to produce in the past using conventional methods.