Corporate Wheeling & Dealing

Oct 292012

Note: Aside from our many concrete concerns with the emergence of synthetic biology — questions of accountability, corporate-driven science research, ethics, security, ecological leakage, and so forth — one of our driving concerns is the priority being given to investments in far-flung, high-risk research, at a time when fully one-sixth of the human population is in want of a daily meal or access to safe drinking water. If Craig Venter wants to find DNA on [More]

Oct 262012

Cross-posted from The Atlantic The U.S. government is surreptitiously collecting the DNA of world leaders, and is reportedly protecting that of Barack Obama. Decoded, these genetic blueprints could provide compromising information. In the not-too-distant future, they may provide something more as well—the basis for the creation of personalized bioweapons that could take down a president and leave no trace. By ANDREW HESSEL, MARC GOODMAN and STEVEN KOTLER This is how the future arrived. It began [More]

Oct 262012

Cross-posted from Thomsen/Reuters, by Roberta Rampton and Deborah Zabarenko WASHINGTON | Wed Oct 24, 2012 6:48pm EDT (Reuters) – Biofuels made from algae, promoted by President Barack Obama as a possible way to help wean Americans off foreign oil, cannot be made now on a large scale without using unsustainable amounts of energy, water and fertilizer, the U.S. National Research Council reported on Wednesday. “Faced with today’s technology, to scale up any more is going to put really big [More]

Oct 112012

NOTE: in this post, another observer thrilled by the apparently limitless horizons of synthetic biology makes the point that the DIY biohacker ‘revolution’ is where the real innovations will happen, beyond the corporate sphere of influence. Of course, the computer revolution spearheaded by guys in garages in the 1970’s would never have taken off if those guys in garages hadn’t transformed themselves into the most high-powered corporate execs in the history of industrial capital, and [More]

Oct 092012

By Stephan Nielsen – Oct 9, 2012, cross-posted from Bloomberg Sugar-cane growers from Bunge Ltd. (BG) to Sao Martinho SA (SMTO3) propose building plants in Brazil to convert crops into chemicals for products as varied as face cream and industrial lubricants. A joint venture between Bunge and U.S. biotechnology company Solazyme Inc. (SZYM) will start late next year to produce oils from sugar. Cane grower Paraiso Bioenergia SA will open the first plant in Brazil by year-end with Emeryville, California- based Amyris Inc. [More]

Oct 042012

Note: The future they talk about is just like the horizon — the closer you get to it, the further away it grows. To place bets on what’s over the horizon is called, aptly enough, speculation. — ed. By Alan Boyle, from NBC News In the future, genetically modified organisms could be making our medicines, our fuel, our housewares, our houses — and they could even help us remake ourselves. All that may sound like [More]

Oct 042012
The Sweet Smell Of Microbes

NOTE: Well, all you patchouli lovers out there — your synthetic ship is coming in! Synthetic fragrances coming your way. Just what the world needs…  — ed. Flavor and fragrance molecules made by fermentation promise abundance regardless of the weather By Melody M. Bomgardner, from Chemical & Engineering News ORANGE YOU SMART Richard Burlingame of Allylix shows off a bottle of valencene made from sugar via fermentation. Credit: Allylix The flavor and fragrance industry experienced a [More]

Oct 042012

Have a look at this promotional dreck from Fidelity Investments, on the wonders of synthetic biology. It sounds fantastic until you realize, their fictions are spun as thin as goat-milk spider silk. As microbiologist Ignacio Chapela has said, “They believe that if they can take an organism with wings, and combine it with a creature that produces ham, they’ll have a flying pig.”    

Oct 022012

Cross-posted from:  October 2, 2012 by Julie Chao  Sequencing, splicing and expressing DNA may seem to be the quintessence of cutting-edge science—indeed DNA manipulation has revolutionized fields such as biofuels, chemicals and medicine. But in fact, the actual process can still be tedious and labor-intensive, something Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) scientist Nathan Hillson learned the hard way. After struggling for two days to design a protocol to put together a genetic circuit with [More]

Sep 042012
Weird Science: The Promise and Peril of Synthetic Biology

By Jeff Conant, from Earth Island Journal, Autumn, 2012 In 1971, a microbiologist named Ananda Chakrabarty patented a bacteria genetically engineered to degrade and destroy crude oil. The next year scientists created the first synthesized gene, a bit of yeast RNA ushered into existence virtually from scratch. These discoveries, among others, raised the curtain on the science of biotechnology. Forty years later, in 2010, biologist Craig Venter, already known as a key figure behind the mapping of the [More]