October 17, 2013
On May 20, 2010, headlines around the world announced one the most extraordinary accomplishments in modern science: the creation of the world’s first synthetic life form. This landmark was not only a remarkable technical feat, drawing upon the work of decades of discoveries in molecular biology, but also placed humankind at the threshold of the most important and exciting phase of biological research. With the ability to actually write the software of life, we now have the knowledge not only to guide our own future development but also to design new species to help us adapt and evolve for our long-term survival.
In Life at the Speed of Light, J. Craig Venter shares the dramatic account of how he led a team of scientists in this pioneering effort in synthetic genomics – and how that work will have a profound impact on our existence in the years to come. After tracing the history of key discoveries in genetics and his own groundbreaking work in sequencing the human genome, Venter describes the long, often frustrating, but ultimately rewarding process of creating a self-replicating, synthetic bacterial cell. That narrative makes for one of the most compelling scientific quests of recent times – a biological detective story that demands all of his team’s resources: ingenuity, the ability to develop novel techniques, unimaginable levels of precision, and enormous amounts of computer power. The result is an exciting technology that has the potential for chemical and energy generation, clean water and food production, environmental control, and medical treatments.
Life at the Speed of Light is a fascinating and authoritative study that provides us an opportunity to ponder afresh the age-old question “What is life?” at the dawn of a new era of biological engineering.
J. Craig Venter is best known for sequencing the human genome. He is the founder, chairman, and CEO of the J. Craig Venter Institute, a not-for-profit research organization dedicated to genomic research. He is also the founder and CEO of Synthetic Genomics, Inc. He is the recipient of numerous awards and honorary degrees, including the 2008 United States National Medal of Science. He lives in La Jolla, California.