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Synthetic Biology & Bioenergy


Each year we continue to put more and more carbon in our atmosphere through the use of fossil fuels. Our growing dependence on this source of fuel is leading to potentially catastrophic changes in our global environment such as increasing temperatures and melting ice caps to drought and wildfires. In short we are conducting a very large, uncontrolled experiment with our planet that could have dire consequences for sustaining life here. At the JCVI we believe we all share a responsibility to find new energy sources and to uncover ways to mitigate our negative impact on the planet. We're using our pioneering genomic science to explore new biologically-driven sources of energy.

Since 1995, Dr. Venter and his teams have been trying to develop a minimal cell both to understand the fundamentals of biology and to begin the process of building a new cell and organism with optimized functions. Our scientists (with funding from the company, Synthetic Genomics Inc. and the U.S. Department of Energy) are focused on developing synthetic organisms able to produce various kinds of biological products and renewable fuels. Over the last years the team has been making steady progress toward their goal of a synthetic organism.

In 2003, JCVI researchers created a synthetic version of the bacteriophage, PhiX 174, and recently they successfully transformed one species of bacteria to another by genome transplantation. As they progress on their goal of synthetic life, they are ever mindful of the societal implications of this work. From the first work on a minimal genome in 1995 to today, these ethical implications are being explored by our scientists and policy experts. Synthetic genomics holds great promise for the future and our team intends to be at the forefront of discoveries and the important public dialogue.

Featured Highlights

First Self-Replicating Synthetic Bacterial Cell

Genomic science has greatly enhanced our understanding of the biological world. It is enabling researchers to "read" the genetic code of...

Hydrogen from Water in a Novel Recombinant Cyanobacterial System

As hydrogen is a promising clean source of energy our goal is to design a microorganism optimized for hydrogen production.

Minimal Cell

The new minimal synthetic cell contains only 531,000 base pairs and just 473 genes making it the smallest genome of any self-replicating...