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Aiming to build better bacteria

Boston Engineering's work with Harvard featured on

It’s a branch of biology often defined as the quest to build life from scratch. Synthetic biology, the effort to engineer novel bacteria for useful purposes, holds the promise of lab-built organisms that could secrete biofuels or clean up oil spills, but also the peril of designer pathogens and unintended consequences.

In a laboratory at Harvard Medical School, however, genetics professor George Church is taking a slightly different approach.

Instead of trying to compose the DNA manuscript of life from raw materials, he’s taking tinkering to a new level. By cribbing from evolution’s playbook and adding a touch of automation, his laboratory has devised powerful new technologies that will enable broad-brush genome editing of an entire organism - the biological equivalent of hitting the “replace all’’ button when editing a document.


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