Craig Venter on Synthetic Life

One of the men who first sequenced the human genome, Venter says he has created synthetic life. He joins us.

Undated handout image provided by the J. Craig Venter Institute shows negatively stained transmission electron micrographs of aggregated M. mycoides. (AP/J. Craig Venter Institute)

Scientist and entrepreneur Craig Venter made headlines in 2000 when he was one of the first to sequence the human genome.

Now, he’s announced another big step: the creation of synthetic life in a laboratory – a bacterium with a cooked-up, man-made genetic code. 

The breakthrough could eventually lead to tailor-made organisms and big benefits in medicine, energy and beyond. 

But what about the ethics – and the risks – of making life in a lab? 

This Hour, On Point: Craig Venter on the promise and pitfalls of synthetic life.


J. Craig Venter, founder and president of the J. Craig Venter Institute – a nonprofit genomics research institute which announced the creation of the first synthetic cell last week.  He was one of the first to sequence the human genome in 2000. 

Art Caplan, professor of bioethics and director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania.  He writes the “Breaking Bioethics” column for MSNBC, and he’s editor of “The Penn Center Guide to Bioethics.”

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