Researchers presented on Thursday The Genome Project-write (HGP-write) in the journal Science. It aims to decrease costs of engineering and testing genomes, while developing new technologies and an ethical framework for genome-scale engineering.

The project will be regulated by a nonprofit organization called the Center of Excellence for Engineering Biology. The first major scientific project to investigate the human DNA was called The Human Genome Project-read  (HGP-read).

In 2003, researchers at the HGP-read were able to sequence and map the human genome.
In 2003, researchers at the HGP-read were able to sequence and map the human genome. Image Credit: Medium

However, a new stage has arrived, and scientists, business people, and policy leaders have presented the HGP-write to “use cellular machinery provided by nature to write code”.

Individuals involved in the project has suggested that HGP-write would have a considerable impact on human health and areas including energy, bioremediation, agriculture, chemicals and global problems that threaten humans and living species.

“Sequencing, analyzing and editing DNA continues to advance at a breakneck pace, the capability to construct DNA sequences in cells is mostly limited to a small number of short segments,= restricting the ability to manipulate and understand biological systems.” said the authors.

Who composes the leadership team of The Genome Project-write?

The project also seeks to gather information, by “connecting the sequence of nucleotide bases in DNA” to their features and purpose. Team leaders are Jef Boeke, director of the Synthetic Yeast Project. He expects to develop living “yeast cells” with redesigned chromosomes.

George Church, Professor of Genetics and Health Sciences at Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is also part of the team. He is currently planning to create a new version of the E.coli bacteria, with a “redesigned genome.”

Andrew Hessel from Bio/Nano Research Group Autodesk and Nancy J. Kelley, lead executive of HGP-write and the Center of Excellence for Engineering Biology, are the other two remaining members.

Discovering practical applications of genome research would solve global problems

Professor Church explained that the HGP-read was strictly dedicated to reading a human genome. On the other hand, the new project is “more ambitious and more focused” on finding practical uses of genome research.

Advances in genome engineering technologies bring the opportunity to understand better “our genetic blueprint.” This information would be used to face global problems, added Professor Church in a press release issued Thursday by Nancy J Kelley & Associates.

The team also expects to reduce costs of technologies, to conduct a genomic analysis. Andrew Hessel suggested that writing DNA code would be the future of science and medicine. However, “our technical capabilities remain limited,” he said.

The new HGP-write depends on vast quantities of research and development. As a result, it could lead to a decrease in technology prices. The project is expected to be launched in 2016, with $100 million provided by “public, private, philanthropic and academic sources.”

Jef Boeke said that first goals of the project aimed to synthesize approximately 1 percent of the human genome. However, information will not be randomly obtained. It will be selected, based on opportunities that it would provide for biomedical research. 

Source: Nancy J Kelley (Press Release)