Venter’s Virus–Assembly Instructions Now On-Line

Craig Venter has followed up on his announcement that he and his coworkers have assembled a virus from its genome sequence. Now there’s a paper available at the Proceeding of the National Academy of Science web site. A bleary-eyed late-night inspection suggests that this is not a flawless Xerox machine for viruses; the researchers had to cast away lots of misassembled versions. (Still, they were able to isolate a perfect sequence in just two weeks.) More interestingly, the authors talk a bit about how they can use this same method to cobble together chunks of much bigger genomes to make synthetic microbes. That’s when things will get really interesting.

The paper ends on a grand note that takes a squirrely turn at the last moment:

“Synthetic genomics will become commonplace and will provide the potential for a vast array of new and complex chemistries altering our approaches to production of energy, pharmaceuticals, and textiles.”

Textiles? Come on, folks. You may be on the verge of creating new life. Is this really the time to be talking about a new line of socks?