Synthetic Life

Synthetic life, also known as synbio or synthetic biology, is a relatively new technology that will revolutionize the world. It is nothing short of the power to create our own custom life forms. Synthetic life is likely to be the hottest single technology for the rest of this decade.


Thinking Exponentially, there have been amazing advancements in reading DNA. We are now going to start writing DNA – on an impressive scale.

The first functional 100% synthetic life form was created in 2010 for a cost over $40,000,000. It was a proof of concept that duplicated a living bacteria. Going forward expect to see huge drops in the cost of printing DNA.

How cheaply? I expect in the range of $20,000 to $50,000 in a year or two. The newest in demand job title will be either DNA programmer or synthetic life engineer. Its not just limited to labs, efforts like DIY Bio groups are springing up. Its much like the early computer industry in the 80’s.

J. Craig Venter is arguably the single most important person in the world in the field of Synthetic Life. Watch as he describes the process by which a computer becomes a living bacteria’s parent. Simply fascinating.

Imagine being to design a bacteria that exists only to eat up oil spills. Create an algae what takes carbon dioxide from the air and converts it into light crude oil. What about creating an source for pure natural gas? Or perhaps a plant that glows in the dark to replace street lamps? We are limited only by our imagination.

Writing DNA has applications beyond artificial life.  You could even use DNA to store non genetic information. DNA is very stable over long time frames, making it perfect for archiving. George Church and his Harvard lab, the most famous geneticist alive, wrote one of his books in DNA – 5,300,000 letters.

Some of the more interesting companies in this space are Synthetic Genomics and Genome Compiler. Writing DNA is a natural consequence of reading DNA.


Categories: Synthetic Biology, Video

Author:Geoffrey Shmigelsky

Technology Entrepreneur, Angel Investor


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5 Comments on “Synthetic Life”

  1. February 19, 2013 at 1:24 pm #

    Nice introductory post. I wrote a bit longer one. See here –


  1. Genetics | Think Exponential - February 14, 2013

    […] Take your thinking one step further, Thinking Exponentially, if you read the entire DNA of every living thing on the planet: Bacteria, animals, plants, cancers cells and all humans. What do you get? The worlds largest software library. One of the key foundations for Synthetic Biology. […]

  2. Frankenstein’s Cat | Think Exponential - March 21, 2013

    […] reading the recently released Frankenstein’s Cat by Emily Anthes. Its a fun light read on how Synthetic Biology will impact animals and […]

  3. Solve Energy | Think Exponential - March 26, 2013

    […] Exponentially, we can use Synthetic Life to create fossil fuels. Civilization generates most of our energy from coal (21%), petroleum (36%) […]

  4. Exponential Technology | Think Exponential - April 8, 2013

    […] Synthetic Life […]

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