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La Jolla institute creates world’s first self-replacing, synthetic bacterial cell

Researchers at the J. Craig Venter Institute, which has facilities in La Jolla and Maryland, announced Thursday they have created the world’s first self-replicating, synthetic bacterial cell.

The synthetic cell was designed on a computer, chemically made in a laboratory and transplanted into a recipient cell to produce a new self-replicating cell, according to the institute.

“For nearly 15 years, Ham Smith, Clyde Hutchison and the rest of our team have been working toward this publication today — the successful completion of our work to construct a bacterial cell that is fully controlled by a synthetic genome,” said J. Craig Venter, a pioneering geneticist and founder of the institute.

According to the institute, the synthetic cell could lead to the development of biofuels, vaccines, pharmaceuticals and clean water and fuel, among other applications.

Venter acknowledged the ethical considerations of building a synthetic genome.

“We have been consumed by this research, but we have also been equally focused on addressing the societal implications of what we believe will be one of the most powerful technologies and drivers for societal good,” he said. “We look forward to continued review and dialogue about the important applications of this work to ensure that is used for the benefit of all.”

The research was published in the current edition of Science Express and will appear in an upcoming issue of Science.