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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 Rudisaurus ( 675580 ) on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @03:05PM (#43027025)
    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? Nice work, Omri; you've just handed them the tools.
  • Sounds great (Score:4, Interesting)

    by emagery ( 914122 ) on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @03:07PM (#43027047)
    DNA is a programming language after all... but knowing the character set is far from understanding the foibles of the programming language itself. We need to have a deeper and more complete understanding before distributing this kind of power.
  • by ODBOL ( 197239 ) on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @03:45PM (#43027407) Homepage

    In the late 1980s or 1990ish, I attended a meeting sponsored by the National Science Foundation, to promote interaction between biologists and computer scientists. Much of the discussion focussed on designing algorithms and producing programs to answer questions posed by biologists. That part of the discussion was dominated by laments: biologists describe problems, computer scientists create programs to solve them, biologists find that the solution isn't really what they wanted.

    Gerald Sussman (MIT, creator of Scheme) was at the meeting. At one point he got excited, and captured the podium. Alas, there is no transcipt, but here's my paraphrase of his inspiring speech:

    Writing programs to serve biologists is cool as far as it goes, but our collaboration should cut much deeper. The genetic code is a programming language, and we should help biologists figure out the structure of the programs written in the alphabet of the bases. What I really want is the Emacs mode to edit the genome, so I can give myself a prehensile tail.

    I have a great memory. I remember good stuff, and some of it happened. Please don't blame Mr. Sussman for any idiocies in my paraphrase. Maybe I projected the prehensile tail from my own repressed desires. But, I do think Mr. Sussman deserves great credit for observing the deep conceptual connections between CS and genetics at a time when very few of us thought beyond the idea of writing computer programs to help solve genetic problems.

Thufir's a Harkonnen now.