It would sound really bad to claim that the synthetic cell is actually not a synthetic cell except for its genome, considering that the team had been sweating for 15 long years for their moment. They sensational press conferences, Discovery Channel documentaries and television coverage aside it is still an achievement. I personally know how hard the team worked. But is this going to be the technology of the feature? Alright, you synthesized the largest molecule ever and successfully did a genome transplantation. So what?
It doesn’t make any sense unless you make a story around it. You could claim that now it should be easier to digitize all the bio-information and bring them to life at will, say for example in a distant space station in Mars. But if you have the technology to transport men and material to Mars to have a bio-engineering facility there, it shouldn’t be a problem to transport the bacteria with you, right? And even if you want to do genome transplantation for other organisms, the biodiversity is so huge, there is never going to be one single protocol to do genome transfer for all the bacterial species and the level of customization of the technique required for each species would offset any advantages associated with this technique.
What are you going to do with this technology? It is going to be interesting to see how they use this to develop bacteria to produce hydrocarbons and pharmaceuticals. It would be interesting because biosynthesis is not going to require more than 10 to 20 genes and transfer of these biosynthetic cluster could be done with existing technology. I really don’t see how genome transplantation makes any difference.
I can’t wait to see Mr.Venter come with his next big venture.
On a side note, his showmanship had a different repercussion which he probably wouldn’t have expected. The headlines read ‘Scientists play God and set off the alarm bells in the ultra-orthodox conservative schools of thought. Who wants to play something that is nothing more than a figment of imagination? The team at JCVI probably felt insulted.