For the first time we are close to creating artificial life from scratch. So says Craig Venter, founder of the J. Craig Venter Institute in Rockville, Maryland, and famed for creating the first cell with a synthetic genome.
"We think we're close, but we've not submitted a paper yet," he said at the Global Grand Challenges summit in London this week.
Venter announced in 2010 that he had brought to life an almost completely synthetic version of the bacterium Mycoplasma mycoides, by transplanting it into the vacant shell of another bacterium. Venter's latest creation, which he has dubbed the Hail Mary Genome, will be made from scratch with genes he and his institute colleagues, Clyde Hutchison and Hamilton Smith, consider indispensable for life.
The team is using computer simulations to better understand what is needed to create a simple, self-replicating cell. "Once we have a minimal chassis, we can add anything else to it," he says.