Laboratories across the world are closing in on a “second genesis” – an achievement that would be one of the greatest scientific breakthroughs of all time.
Prof David Deamer, from California University, said although building a new lifeform from scratch is a daunting task he is confident it can happen in five to 10 years.
He said: “The momentum is building – we’re knocking at the door.”
A synthetic, made-to-order living system could produce everything from new drugs to biofuels and greenhouse gas absorbers.
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Opponents of the controversial research claim the technology could lead to machines becoming “almost human”.
- A d v e r t i s e m e n t
But there would be no safety issues for a long time as any initial organisms would be very primitive and need large-scale life support in the lab, reports New Scientist.
The finishing line could be in sight after geneticists Professor George Church and Dr Michael Jewett, of Harvard Medical School, told a synthetic biology conference in Hong Kong that they had synthetically created part of a cell, called a ribosome.