Why engaging in the manufacture of artificial human genome?

Why engaging in the manufacture of artificial human genome?

By Dorothée Browaeys, 8 June 2016, d.browaeys@lefestivalvivant.org

Are we insidiously running to the artificial creation of a human? George Church, with known recurring stunts - announcing the resurrection of the mammoth  - published this June 2, 2016 an article (co-signed by 24 other US researchers) in Science announcing the mobilization to synthesize the 6 billion nucleotides of the human genome.

The project will be carried by a non-commercial organization, the Centre of Excellence for biological engineering. Il will raise 100 million this year from private and public sources. It is therefore convinced that this can be used for something ... But what?  

In his book published in 2012 entitled "Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves" (How synthetic biology will reinvent the nature and ourselves), the biologist George Church describes the culmination of genetic engineering as the production of human genomes to tailor made and become resistant to all viruses including AIDS or herpes ... The dream is attractive and leads the Genome-Project Write, that is twenty five years after the international mobilization for sequencing the human genome. After the reading, go on writing so! –

Who brings the promise? And what for?

The announcement gives the impression that accademical researchers use their authority to justify the soundness of the project. But the Science article gives very poor public health arguments.  Alongside private companies, as AutoDesk, provide theirfull support, because the interest is commercial.

The proposal receives strong criticism, from academics. Drew Endy  - who is very involved in the international competition IGEM ( Boston ) devoted to synthetic biology - considers that the approach should be subject to independent ethical review . " Do we want to operate in a world where people are able to organize themselves to make human genomes ? Should we pause and reflect on this before we launch the project? " Drew Endy asks in the WashingtonPost . " They talk about implementing this thing is the genome that defines humanity. It is a shameless attempt to preempt a prior ethical opinion .

On 13 May, following the "secret" meeting at Harvard , the Center for Genetics and Society, an NGO that campaigns for ethical debates about the new biotechnologies, denounced " a meeting that resembles a will to privatize the discussion on changes in genetic inheritance . "   The medical geneticist Francis Collins said in a statement that the Federal Institute of Health (NIH) he heads was interested in encouraging advances in DNA synthesis , but it does not consider that the time is came to finance a large-scale production . He added that "the entire genome of whole organisms synthesis projects go well beyond current scientific capabilities , and are immediately raises many ethical and philosophical red flags. "

To ensure public participation and transparency , the draft of the human genome making plans to encourage public debate with the support of the Woodrow Wilson Center. Stay tuned.

This article has originally been published in French, in UP magazine, see: http://up-magazine.info/index.php/le-vivant/bio-innovations/5932-la-fabrique-du-genome-humain