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NEW YORK CITY—Since the Human Genome Project (HGP) was completed in 2003, scientists have sequenced the full genomes of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of species. Octopuses. Barley. Mosquitoes. Birch trees. Reading genomes is now commonplace, but that’s not enough for the group of scientists who gathered at the New York Genome Center on Tuesday. They want to writeentire genomes with the same ease, synthesizing them from scratch and implanting them into hollow cells.

One team already did this for a tiny bacterium in 2010, creating a synthetic cell called Synthia. But the New York group has set its sights on building the considerably larger genomes of plants, animals, and yes—after a lot of future discussion—humans.

For now, that’s technically implausible. You’d have to make millions of short stretches of DNA, assemble them into larger structures, get them into an empty cell, and wrap and fold them correctly. In the process, you’d go bankrupt. Although we can sequence a human genome for less than $1,000, writing all 3 billion letters would still cost around $30 million. Still, even that exorbitant price has fallen from $12 billion in 2003, and should reach $100,000 within the next 20 years. And the group assembled in New York wants to double that pace.

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Image: By Russ London at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9923576

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The Atlantic

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