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Programming biological operating systems: genome design, assembly and activation

Abstract

The DNA technologies developed over the past 20 years for reading and writing the genetic code converged when the first synthetic cell was created 4 years ago. An outcome of this work has been an extraordinary set of tools for synthesizing, assembling, engineering and transplanting whole bacterial genomes. Technical progress, options and applications for bacterial genome design, assembly and activation are discussed.

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Figure 1: Moving life into the digital world and back.
Figure 2: Options for genome assembly.
Figure 3: A synthetic genome activated in a cell-free environment will give the same outcome as a genome activated through genome transplantation.
Figure 4: A futuristic vision for designing synthetic organisms on demand.

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Acknowledgements

I would like to thank past and present members of the synthetic biology groups at the J. Craig Venter Institute and Synthetic Genomics, Inc., for making all of these technologies I discuss here possible, especially C. Venter, H. Smith and C. Hutchison, who had the vision to make a synthetic cell as early as 1995. I also thank M. LaPointe, T. Richardson, J. Ward and J. Eads for their contributions to Figures 1, 2 and 4 and C. Hutchison for producing Figure 3.

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Correspondence to Daniel G Gibson.

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D.G.G. is Vice President of DNA Technologies at Synthetic Genomics, Inc., and holds employee stock shares in this company.

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Gibson, D. Programming biological operating systems: genome design, assembly and activation. Nat Methods 11, 521–526 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1038/nmeth.2894

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