DIY Genetics (Biowar for Dummies)

Paul Boutin describes his hands on attempt at gene engineering with no prior experience: “How hard is it to build your own weapon of mass destruction? We take a crash course in supervirus engineering to find out.”

Boutin’s conclusions challenge the conventional wisdom that this kind of thing requires the resources of a large National Lab, and emphasize the importance of investment now in biodefense. From the article:

DNA synthesis is following a kind of accelerated Moore’s law—the faster and easier it gets, the faster and easier it gets….The rush toward DIY genetics is reflected in so-called Carlson curves, plotted by Rob Carlson, a physicist-turned-biologist…who worked them out in 2003. “Within a decade,” Carlson wrote in the journal Biosecurity and Bioterrorism, “a single person could sequence or synthesize all the DNA describing all the people on the planet many times over in an eight-hour day.”

Food for thought. (via Dave Farber’s IP list)