If you were setting out to design a human being from scratch, odds are you wouldn't take J. Craig Venter as your template.
It's something of an irony then that such an imperfect organism as Venter has devoted much of his career to understanding the engineering of other organisms. He was the leader of one of two teams that in 2000 sequenced the human genome—the entire 25,000-gene cookbook that makes us people in the first place and not chimps or birds or banana trees — and he has conducted the same work with many other organisms.
But Venter, 61, may have just done something that is at once more thrilling and promising and unsettling than all that. According to a just-released paper in the journal Science, he has gone beyond merely sequencing a genome and has designed and built one.
In other words, he may have created life.
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