A team of 25 researchers has announced a revolutionary program, named the Human Genome Project-Write (HGP-Write), aimed at developing synthetic human genomes.
This proposed experiment would entail manufacturing an entire genome using the chemicals currently residing in a human chromosomes with the goal of analyzing this genome’s potential for engineering resistance to certain cancers or viruses as well as expediting vaccine or drug development within a 10 year period, according to Reuters.
Furthermore, Reuters noted that scientists unaffiliated with this endeavor acknowledged that there were additional benefits that could arise from this research, like locating undiscovered parts of the human genome or learning why there is an abundance of genetic variation in individuals and human populations.
HGP-Write, however, attracted some scrutiny before it even got off the ground.
The scientists behind this project gathered for an invitation-only meeting at Harvard last month. Critics felt this secrecy was not necessary, but the organizers of the event, “avoided publicity as to not jeopardize publication of the proposal in a peer reviewed scientific journal,” reported The New York Times.
Also, a venture of this nature could raise the notion of creating humans without biological parents, suggested Reuters.
The study, published in the journal Science, acknowledged that there would be ethical, legal, and social implications (ELSI) associated with this program, which is why they are seeking an estimated $100 million in public and private funding.
“Responsible innovation requires more than ELSI, though, and involves identifying common goals important to scientists and the wider public through timely and detailed consultation among diverse stakeholders,” explained the proposal.
The team hopes to start the research at some point this year.