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Scientist Says Synthetic Bacteria Is One Step In A Long Process

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Aired 5/21/10

A scientist at Craig Venter's San Diego campus says creating novel organisms will be the next step in a process that lead to the creation of synthetic bacteria.

— A scientist at Craig Venter's San Diego campus says creating novel organisms will be the next step in a process that lead to the creation of synthetic bacteria.

Clyde A. Hutchison III, Ph.D.
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Above: Clyde A. Hutchison III, Ph.D.

Clyde Hutchison, a faculty member at the Craig Venter Institute, said the research into synthetic bacteria basically began 15 years ago. That's when researchers first sequenced the tiny genome of a bacterium called mycoplasma, which has only half a million DNA base pairs.

The human genome has three billion base pairs. Hutchison said the synthetic organism he helped create is virtually a duplicate of an existing mycoplasma, but the process of creating it will lead to other life forms.

"As we learn more about how to design novel genomes, that have really new properties, we have system to test whether they work," he said.

Hutchison added that the methods his lab used can create other synthetic cells or parts of chromosomes that could be added to natural ones to produce useful products.

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