Would you want to create the perfect identical twin?

Commercial interest in synthetic biology – or software that can replace genes with synthetic templates – has accelerated in recent years, taking a classic field of science into the modern era. But what are the economics and ethical challenges?

Open access + mass adoption + machines + computation + evolution = Frankenstein – especially for less than $10k per lifetime. pic.twitter.com/rFcgVM9uvV — Matt Molnar (@mrMattMolnar) April 28, 2016

Essentially, synthetic biology means when computer code “programs” bits and pieces of DNA from, say, bacteria and replace them with “genetic” materials which you can then control. As the image above shows, in theory it is a simple idea – you can build a product of synthesised DNA, each engineered as a separate product.

The idea is that because the code can be done in a way that will replicate itself, say by repeating a particular set of amino acids, it will presumably also replicate itself, so that a product can be created by creating numerous iterations. That can be done on a large scale, for instance by creating bioreactors that could use a range of synthetic genomes, all on a single platform.

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