BIO Comments on Construction of a Self-Replicating, Synthetic Bacterial Cell

The successful construction of a synthesized genome could enable new research and development of human therapies, biofuels, and biobased chemicals from renewable resources.
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WASHINGTON, D.C. (Thursday, May 20, 2010) - The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) today released the following statement in regard to the announcement by the J. Craig Venter Institute of the successful completion of a project to design, chemically synthesize, and transplant a complete genome into a bacterial cell.

Jim Greenwood, BIO president & CEO, stated, “The successful construction of a synthesized genome represents an evolutionary milestone in the field of biotechnology. Researchers and scientists have been using synthetic biology and metabolic engineering techniques to genetically enhance microbes for years. The achievement announced today can provide insights into the working of microbial genomes that could lead to advances in health, agriculture and industrial biotechnology.

“Many products made with genetically enhanced microbes are in use in the average American home today. The use of genetically enhanced microbes to produce therapies for human health, industrially useful biofuels and chemicals, and even food ingredients is well regulated by federal agencies. The biotechnology industry enjoys a safety record stretching back 35 years in the use of genetically enhanced microbes.”

Renewable chemicals under development using new synthetic biology techniques include biofuels and biobased chemicals derived from renewable resources, including isoprene for rubber compounds, acrylics for paints and adhesives, surfactants for chemical emulsions, and adipic acid for producing nylon and other plastics. For more information about products made using synthetic biology and federal regulations, visit http://bio.org/ind/syntheticbiology/.

Brent Erickson, executive vice president for BIO’s Industrial and Environmental Section, said, “This scientific achievement could someday lead to the development of new microbes that could consume carbon dioxide and turn it into clean burning natural gas or that could efficiently clean up crude oil spills. The understanding of metabolic engineering gained by today’s research achievement holds great potential to open new avenues for research and development.”

BIO and the biotechnology industry respect the power of the technology we are developing. We believe in the need for regulation, and we insist that this technology – in its myriad of applications – be used to benefit patients and others. For additional information on BIO’s bioethics principles, visit http://bio.org/bioethics/background/principles.asp.

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