Craig Venter on TED

Those interested in genetics should really watch Craig Venter’s presentation on TED. Craig is one of the world’s greatest scientists who has evolved the field of genetics over the past 15 years with feats such as the mapping of the human genome by his former company, Celera. His TED presentation is about creating synthetic life, in this case designing a bacteria (unicellular micro-organisms). This has important repercussions in the design and creation of new fuel sources which reduce the worlds reliance on fossil fuels by creating designer fuels with better characteristics. Currently they’re using mechanisms to essential recombine the chromosomes of existing organisms (e.g. e-coli) but the future is full biodesign and assembly without the need for a transformative process on existing organsisms. “Life from scratch”.

Craig suggests he’s around 18 months away from creating a “4th generation fuel” (designed to produce octane with C02 as it’s fuel)) but scale of manufacture and efficiency of carbon capture are the real issues here. Example, there are organisms out there that have evolved to produce octane but they didn’t evolve to be refineries of the scale we require for the petrochemical industry. Also fascinating is the approach of experimenting with thousands (or millions) of bacterial combinations to try and evolve a super fuel. It’s heady stuff and I sincerely hope he gets there.