Geneticist Craig Venter Says Team has Created First Synthetic Cell

Dr. Venter calls the result a “synthetic cell” and is presenting the research as a landmark achievement that will open the way to creating useful microbes from scratch to make products like vaccines and biofuels.

At a press conference Thursday, Dr. Venter described the converted cell as “the first self-replicating species we’ve had on the planet whose parent is a computer.”

It sounds a little Frankenstein-esque, but a prominent US geneticist has created what he calls the first synthetic living cell. Craig Venter built the genome of a bacterium from scratch and implanted it in a cell, a development seen as an important step toward the creation of artificial life, the Guardian reports. Venter and his team spent 10 years and $40 million on the project, and the results are appearing in Science.

For 15 years, J. Craig Venter has chased a dream: to build a genome from scratch and use it to make synthetic life. Now, he and his team at the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) in Rockville, Maryland, and San Diego, California, say they have realized that dream. In this week's Science Express (www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/science.1190719), they describe the stepwise creation of a bacterial chromosome and the successful transfer of it into a bacterium, where it replaced the native DNA. Powered by the synthetic genome, that microbial cell began replicating and making a new set of proteins.