J. Craig Venter

In a news cycle dominated by Paris Hilton and the Apple iPhone, Craig Venter has announced the results of his lab's work on genome transplantation methods that allows for the transformation of one type of bacteria into another, dictated by the transplanted chromosome. In other words, one species becomes another. This is news, bound to affect everyone on the planet. Below is the press release fromVenter's Institute, along with links to the scientific paper published in Science, and the international press.

The day after the announcement, Edge talked to Venter, who had the following to say about the research underway:

Now we know we can boot up a chromosome system. It doesn't matter if the DNA is chemically made in a cell or made in a test tube. Until this development, if you made a synthetic chomosome you had the question of what do you do with it. Replacing the chomosome with existing cells, if it works, seems the most effective to way to replace one already in an existing cell systems. We didn't know if it would work or not. Now we do. This is a major advance in the field of synthetic genomics. We now know we can create a synthetic organism. It's not a question of 'if', or 'how', but 'when', and in this regard, think weeks and months, not years.

JCVI Scientists Publish First Bacterial Genome Transplantation Changing One Species to Another

Research is important step in further advancing field of synthetic genomics

ROCKVILLE, MD — June 28, 2007 — Researchers at the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) today announced the results of work on genome transplantation methods allowing them to transform one type of bacteria into another type dictated by the transplanted chromosome. The work, published online in the journal Science, by JCVI’s Carole Lartigue, Ph.D. and colleagues, outlines the methods and techniques used to change one bacterial species, Mycoplasma capricolum into another, Mycoplasma mycoides Large Colony (LC), by replacing one organism’s genome with the other one’s genome.

“The successful completion of this research is important because it is one of the key proof of principles in synthetic genomics that will allow us to realize the ultimate goal of creating a synthetic organism,” said J. Craig Venter, Ph.D., president and chairman, JCVI. "

Published Online June 28, 2007
Science DOI: 10.1126/science.1144622
Science Express Index
Research Articles
Submitted on May 3, 2007
Accepted on June 21, 2007

Genome Transplantation in Bacteria: Changing One Species to Another
Carole Lartigue 1, John I. Glass 1*, Nina Alperovich 1, Rembert Pieper 1, Prashanth P. Parmar 1, Clyde A. Hutchison III 1, Hamilton O. Smith 1, J. Craig Venter
The J. Craig Venter Institute, Rockville, MD 20850, USA.

As a step toward propagation of synthetic genomes, we completely replaced the genome of a bacterial cell with one from another species by transplanting a whole genome as naked DNA. Intact genomic DNA from Mycoplasma mycoides large colony (LC), virtually free of protein, was transplanted into Mycoplasma capricolum cells by polyethylene glycol-mediated transformation. Cells selected for tetracycline resistance, carried by the M. mycoides LC chromosome, contain the complete donor genome and are free of detectable recipient genomic sequences. These cells that result from genome transplantation are phenotypically identical to the M. mycoides LC donor strain as judged by several criteria. ... [subscription]

June 29, 2007


Replacement Genome Gives Microbe New Identity
Elizabeth Pennisi

In a feat reported in a paper published online by Science this week (, researchers have induced a bacterium to take up the entire genome of another, related bacterium, thereby transforming one bacterial species into another.

June 29, 2007


Scientists Transplant Genome of Bacteria

Scientists at the institute directed by J. Craig Venter, a pioneer in sequencing the human genome, are reporting that they have successfully transplanted the genome of one species of bacteria into another, an achievement they see as a major step toward creating synthetic forms of life.

Other scientists who did not participate in the research praised the achievement, published yesterday on the Web site of the journal Science. But some expressed skepticism that it was as significant as Dr. Venter said.

His goal is to make cells that might take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and produce methane, used as a feedstock for other fuels. Such an achievement might reduce dependency on fossil fuels and strike a blow at global warming.

"We look forward to having the first fuels from synthetic biology certainly within the decade and possibly in half that time," he said.

Richard Ebright, a molecular biologist at Rutgers University, said the transplantation technique, which leads to the transferred genome’s taking over the host cell, was"“a landmark accomplishment." ...

June 29, 2007

From reading DNA to writing it
By Roger Highfield, Science Editor

First artificial life could be created 'within months'

Man could be on the brink of creating the first artificial organism, a landmark development that would provide a profound insight into the origins, workings and essence of life, and vast new opportunities to exploit living organisms.

The scientist behind the effort, Dr Craig Venter, wants to synthesise new kinds of bug to clean up the environment, generate biofuels and green energy, even mop up greenhouse gases.

But this pioneering research has inevitably triggered unease about the limits of science, fears about “playing god,” and raises the spectre that this technology could one day be abused. ...

June 29, 2007

Scientists Report DNA Transplant
Organisms Adopt Donor Traits
By Rick Weiss

Scientists said yesterday they had transplanted a microbe's entire, tangled mass of DNA into a closely related organism, a delicate operation that cleanly transformed the recipient from one species into the other.

After the operations, the "patients" -- single-celled organisms resembling bacteria -- dutifully obeyed their new genomes and by every measure exhibited the biological personas of the donors.

"This is equivalent to changing a Macintosh computer into a PC by inserting a new piece of [PC] software," said study leader J. Craig Venter, chief executive of Synthetic Genomics, a Rockville company racing to be the first to create fully synthetic, replicating cells. ...

John Brockman, Editor and Publisher
Russell Weinberger, Associate Publisher

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