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Biotech Software Technology

Software Lets Scientists Assemble DNA 149

Velcroman1 writes "Biochemical engineers can now download a piece of software and with a few simple clicks, assemble the DNA for new life forms through their laptops. 'With the proper computer tools, biologists can write their own genetic code — and then turn that code into life,' said biochemist Omri Amirav-Drory, who founded Genome Compiler Corp., the company that sells the software. He demonstrated at a coffee shop early one morning by manipulating a bacteria's genes on his laptop. The synthetic biology app is still in beta; on Jan. 15, the company added an undo feature and support for new DNA file formats. Building creatures is increasingly like word processing, it would seem. But such is the strange reality in the age of cheap genome sequencing, DNA synthesizing and 'bioinformatics.'"
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Software Lets Scientists Assemble DNA

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  • by emagery ( 914122 ) on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @03:09PM (#43027067)
    Heh; while we hold on to weaponized smallpox stockpiles ... yeah; totally an islamic thing, eh? Any sufficiently disenfrachised, abused, and under-represented individual or group will have similar motivations.
  • by micromoog ( 206608 ) on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @03:34PM (#43027311)
  • by Baloroth ( 2370816 ) on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @03:35PM (#43027319)

    It takes a special kind of terrorist to deploy a bioweapon, because bioweapons don't distinguish based on religion (although you could theoretically make one that distinguishes on race, it's a bit tricky). That means it'll hit everyone indiscriminately, and not even most terrorists want that. The only ones who would use something like that are people who want to destroy everyone, and finding a large enough group of people (as you would need to create and deploy such a weapon) willing to do that is quite difficult.

    Also even the most lethal bioweapons won't kill everyone, whether thanks to natural immunity or proper quarantine procedures, a lot of people will survive. Anything nasty enough to actually kill everyone will almost certainly burn out very rapidly.

  • epigenetics? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DdJ ( 10790 ) on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @03:54PM (#43027487) Homepage Journal

    Does the tool let people specify various epigenetic factors, such as methylation? This is a thing that's pretty important, but that a lot of people don't understand well (and some refuse to believe there's anything to understand there).

    If so, wow.

    If not, this is going to have some severe limits in utility. Useful, certainly, but completely incapable of producing working DNA for, say, a human being or a giraffe.

  • by ultranova ( 717540 ) on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @03:55PM (#43027501)

    And how long will it be until extremists design and assemble a lethal and unstoppable virus this way and trigger a global epidemic that wipes out humanity in the name of Allah?

    Probably forever, because:

    1. Wiping out humanity is the one thing anyone - including the extremists - ought to understand is guaranteed to royally piss off any creator god that might be behind human existence (or any being even remotely interested in humanity, for that matter).
    2. Politically motivated terrorism doesn't exactly have many scenarios where actually ending the world would get you what you want either.
    3. It's pretty hard to imagine that fundamentalists could outsmart biologists who, after all, also have access to this tool to make a cure.

    Nice work, Omri; you've just handed them the tools.

    On the other hand, idiots who think other people are cartoon supervillains and appeal to that caricature to argue against new tools are certainly capable of killing millions by hindering the War on Disease. You and everyone who modded you up ought to be ashamed of yourselves. You're just as bad as the anti-vaccine people, except you don't even have misfiring parental instincts as an excuse.

  • by me01chanl ( 553161 ) on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @04:22PM (#43027753)
    It's no more appropriate to say "bioinformatics" than it is to say "algebra" - they're well defined fields.
  • by Hythlodaeus ( 411441 ) on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @06:37PM (#43028823)

    The whole post reads like a bio version of "And then I cloud-sourced an internet to my giga-drive!"

Executive ability is deciding quickly and getting somebody else to do the work. -- John G. Pollard