Sunday, February 24, 2008
Engineering biology, with Drew Endy
There's a fascinating essay by/interview with Drew Endy on the Edge website, which appears to be the latest in a series to have emerged from an event they organised last August. I've written about Endy in the past, and he features prominently in the final chapters of Genesis Machines; indeed, I wish I'd had such an illuminating transcript available when I wrote the book.
Endy is an Assistant Professor of Biological Engineering at MIT, and one of the leading figures in synthetic biology. In one particular paragraph, he captures the excitement of this emerging new discipline:
"Programming DNA is more cool, it's more appealing, it's more powerful than silicon. You have an actual living, reproducing machine; it's nanotechnology that works. It's not some Drexlarian (Eric Drexler) fantasy. And we get to program it. And it's actually a pretty cheap technology. You don't need a FAB Lab like you need for silicon wafers. You grow some stuff up in sugar water with a little bit of nutrients. My read on the world is that there is tremendous pressure that's just started to be revealed around what heretofore has been extraordinarily limited access to biotechnology."