The 20-million Gene Toolkit: Designing Future Energy & Lifeforms
“We have 20 million genes which I call the design components of the future. We are limited here only by our imagination.”
Craig Venter, Geneticist
Craig Venter’s company, Synthetic Genomics, announced yesterday that it has struck a deal with ExxonMobil to develop biofuels from algae that cars and planes can use without having a modified engine. Exxon officials said they decided to invest in algal biofuel over other forms of biofuels because its production does not require arable land or fresh water and algae consumes large quantities of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas. Synthetic Genomics has been using genetic engineering in an effort to produce strains of algae that would automatically secrete a “hydrocarbon-like” liquid.
Venter has been making headlines that led to yesterday’s announcement over the past years for a wide variety of genetic “miracles”. The controversial scientist has made a lot of wild claims, but surprisingly most of them have panned out. But his latest “crazy” idea might just top them all. Late last year Venter disclosed that he is creating a life form that feeds on climate-ruining carbon dioxide to produce fuel. It’s hard to imagine a better win-win, and he says he’s very close to making the dream a reality. Such a feat could be world changing. Indeed!
“We have modest goals of replacing the whole petrochemical industry and becoming a major source of energy,” Venter told Al Gore, Google co-founder Larry Page and other attendees at the Technology, Entertainment and Design conference held recently in Monterey, California. “We think we will have fourth-generation fuels in about 18 months, with CO2 as the fuel stock.”
Venter says that there is virtually no limit to the kind of applications that designer organisms can be custom created for.