Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Scientific Communities
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article

J. Craig Venter, Ph.D., Describes Biofuels, Vaccines and Foods from Made-to-Order Microbes

Published: Monday, March 26, 2012
Last Updated: Monday, March 26, 2012
Bookmark and Share
Scientists are using decades of knowledge garnered from sequencing or “reading” the genetic codes of thousands of living things to now start writing new volumes in the library of life.

J. Craig Venter, Ph.D., one of the most renowned of those scientists, described the construction of the first synthetic cell and many new applications of this work today at the 243rd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world’s largest scientific society, which is underway this week.

In a plenary talk titled, “From Reading to Writing the Genetic Code,” Venter described a fundamental shift in his field of genomics, and its promise for producing synthetic life that could help provide 21st century society with new fuels, medicines, food and nutritional products, supplies of clean water and other resources. Venter, a pioneer in the field, led the team at Celera Genomics that went head-to-head with the government-and-foundation-funded Human Genome Project in the race to decode the human genome. This quest, in which the 23,000 human genes were deciphered, ended with the teams declaring a tie and publishing simultaneous publications in 2001.

“Genomics is a rapidly evolving field and my teams have been leading the way from reading the genetic code — deciphering the sequences of genes in microbes, humans, plants and other organisms — to writing code and constructing synthetic cells for a variety of uses. We can now construct fully synthetic bacterial cells that have the potential to more efficiently and economically produce vaccines, pharmaceuticals, biofuels, food and other products.”

The work Venter described at the ACS session falls within an ambitious new field known as synthetic biology, which draws heavily on chemistry, metabolic engineering, genomics and other traditional scientific disciplines. Synthetic biology emerged from genetic engineering, the now-routine practice of inserting one or two new genes into a crop plant or bacterium. The genes can make tomatoes, for instance, ripen without softening or goad bacteria to produce human insulin for treating diabetes. Synthetic biology, however, involves rearranging genes on a much broader scale — that of a genome, which is an organism’s entire genetic code — to reprogram entire organisms and even design new organisms.

Venter and his team at the not-for-profit J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI), which has facilities in Rockville, Maryland, and San Diego, announced in 2010 that they had constructed the world’s first completely synthetic bacterial cell. Using computer-designed genes made on synthesizer machines from four bottles of chemicals, the scientists arranged those genes into a package, a synthetic chromosome. When inserted into a bacterial cell, the chromosome booted up the cell and was capable of dividing and reproducing.

In the ACS talk, Venter described progress on major projects, including developing new synthetic cells and engineering genomes to produce biofuels, vaccines, clean water, food and other products. That work is ongoing at both JCVI and at his company, Synthetic Genomics Inc. (SGI). A project at SGI for instance, aims to engineer algae cells to capture carbon dioxide and use it as a raw material for producing new fuels. Another group uses synthetic genomic advances with the goal of making influenza vaccines in hours rather than months to better respond to sudden mutations in those viruses.

Venter also described his work in sequencing the first draft human genome in 2001 while he and his team were at Celera Genomics, as well as the work on his complete diploid genome published in 2007 by scientists at JCVI, along with collaborators at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto and the University of California, San Diego. In addition to continued analysis of Venter’s genome, he and his team are also studying the human microbiome, the billions of bacteria that live in and on people, and how these microbes impact health and disease.

While technology is rapidly changing, making human genome sequencing more and more accessible, the accuracy of these next generation machines remain a challenge. Thus, Venter believes it may be years before such full-genome sequences become accurate enough to find a place in routine medical care.

Further Information
Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,800+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More Than 4,000+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters

Sign In

Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

Sniffing Out Cancer
Scientists have been exploring new ways to “smell” signs of cancer by analyzing what’s in patients’ breath.
Thursday, October 01, 2015
New, Improved Approach To Mammograms
Detecting breast cancer in women with dense mammary tissues could become more reliable with a new mammogram procedure that researchers have now tested in pre-clinical studies of mice.
Friday, September 18, 2015
“Heat” From Chilli Peppers Could Help Kill Cancer Cells
Capsaicin, the compound responsible for chilis’ heat, is used in creams sold to relieve pain, and recent research shows that in high doses, it kills prostate cancer cells.
Friday, September 11, 2015
Preventing Drinking Water Contamination by Pharmaceuticals
In recent years, researchers have realized that many products, including pharmaceuticals, have ended up where they’re not supposed to be — in our drinking water.
Friday, September 11, 2015
Cheap Diagnostics with a Portable "Paper Machine"
Scientists have developed a cheap, portable system for point of care diagnostics for a range of infectious diseases, genetic conditions and cancer.
Monday, July 20, 2015
Microfluidic Device Mixes And Matches DNA For Synthetic Biology
Researchers have developed a microfluidic device that quickly builds packages of DNA and delivers them into bacteria or yeast for further testing.
Monday, July 06, 2015
Artificial Pancreas Controls Diabetes
Scientists are reporting the development of an implantable “artificial pancreas” that continuously measures a person’s blood sugar, or glucose, level and can automatically release insulin as needed.
Friday, July 03, 2015
Expanding the Code of Life With New “Letters”
Researchers have developed a new nucleotide pair that can be added to DNA, raising the possibility that entirely new proteins could be created for medical uses.
Friday, May 29, 2015
Bioresorbable Electronic Stent Could Provide Feedback, Therapy
Researchers have developed and tested a drug releasing electronic stent which could significantly reduce the risk associated with traditional mesh tube stents.
Thursday, May 28, 2015
How Used Coffee-Grounds Could Make Some Food More Healthful
Phenols in coffee ground extracts could be used as additives to enhances other food products.
Thursday, May 14, 2015
Kimchi-based Preservative Used in Cosmetics is Not So Natural
Scientists report that kimchi-based preservative marketed as “all-natural” contains synthetic ingredients.
Friday, April 17, 2015
Novel Nanoparticles Could Save Soldiers’ Lives After Explosions
Researchers paired clot-promoting nanoparticles with a corticosteroid that stops inflammation.
Friday, April 17, 2015
A Novel Method for Portable Detection of Potent Drugs Known as ‘Bath Salts’
Researchers developed a low-cost, disposable and rapid platform for detecting bath salts.
Saturday, September 27, 2014
Stinky Gases Emanating from Landfills Could Transform into Clean Energy
Research will be presented at a meeting of the American Chemical Society.
Wednesday, August 13, 2014
Carbon Dioxide ‘Sponge’ Could Ease Transition to Cleaner Energy
A sponge-like plastic that sops up the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) might ease our transition away from polluting fossil fuels and toward new energy sources, such as hydrogen.
Wednesday, August 13, 2014
Scientific News
High Throughput Mass Spectrometry-Based Screening Assay Trends
Dr John Comley provides an insight into HT MS-based screening with a focus on future user requirements and preferences.
How a Genetic Locus Protects Adult Blood-Forming Stem Cells
Mammalian imprinted Gtl2 protects adult hematopoietic stem cells by restricting metabolic activity in the cells' mitochondria.
Genetic Basis of Fatal Flu Side Effect Discovered
A group of people with fatal H1N1 flu died after their viral infections triggered a deadly hyperinflammatory disorder in susceptible individuals with gene mutations linked to the overactive immune response, according to a recent study.
New Tech Vastly Improves CRISPR/Cas9 Accuracy
A new CRISPR/Cas9 technology developed by scientists at UMass Medical School is precise enough to surgically edit DNA at nearly any genomic location, while avoiding potentially harmful off-target changes typically seen in standard CRISPR gene editing techniques.
The MaxSignal Colistin ELISA Test Kit from Bioo Scientific
Kit can help prevent the antibiotic apocalypse by keeping last resort drugs out of the food supply.
"Good" Mozzie Virus Might Hold Key to Fighting Human Disease
Australian scientists have discovered a new virus carried by one of the country’s most common pest mosquitoes.
Non-Disease Proteins Kill Brain Cells
Scientists at the forefront of cutting-edge research into neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s have shown that the mere presence of protein aggregates may be as important as their form and identity in inducing cell death in brain tissue.
Closing the Loop on an HIV Escape Mechanism
Research team finds that protein motions regulate virus infectivity.
New Class of RNA Tumor Suppressors Identified
Two short, “housekeeping” RNA molecules block cancer growth by binding to an important cancer-associated protein called KRAS. More than a quarter of all human cancers are missing these RNAs.
Potential Treatment for Life-Threatening Viral Infections Revealed
The findings point to new therapies for Dengue, West Nile and Ebola.
Scroll Up
Scroll Down
Skyscraper Banner

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,800+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
4,000+ scientific videos