How to build synthetic DNA and send it across the internet | Dan Gibson


Alright, let me tell you
about building synthetic cells and printing life. But first, let me tell you a quick story. On March 31, 2013, my team and I received an email
from an international health organization, alerting us that two men died in China shortly after contracting
the H7N9 bird flu. There were fears of a global pandemic as the virus started rapidly
moving across China. Although methods existed
to produce a flu vaccine and stop the disease from spreading, at best, it would not be available
for at least six months. This is because a slow, antiquated
flu vaccine manufacturing process developed over 70 years ago
was the only option. The virus would need to be isolated
from infected patients, packaged up and then sent to a facility where scientists would inject
the virus into chicken eggs, and incubate those chicken eggs
for several weeks in order to prepare the virus
for the start of a multistep, multimonth flu vaccine
manufacturing process. My team and I received this email because we had just invented
a biological printer, which would allow
for the flu vaccine instructions to be instantly downloaded
from the internet and printed. Drastically speeding up the way
in which flu vaccines are made, and potentially saving thousands of lives. The biological printer leverages
our ability to read and write DNA and starts to bring into focus what we like to call
biological teleportation. I am a biologist and an engineer
who builds stuff out of DNA. Believe it or not,
one of my favorite things to do is to take DNA apart
and put it back together so that I can understand
better how it works. I can edit and program DNA to do things,
just like coders programing a computer. But my apps are different. They create life. Self-replicating living cells
and things like vaccines and therapeutics that work in ways
that were previously impossible. Here’s National Medal of Science
recipient Craig Venter and Nobel laureate Ham Smith. These two guys shared a similar vision. That vision was, because all
of the functions and characteristics of all biological entities,
including viruses and living cells, are written into the code of DNA, if one can read and write
that code of DNA, then they can be reconstructed
in a distant location. This is what we mean
by biological teleportation. To prove out this vision, Craig and Ham set a goal
of creating, for the first time, a synthetic cell, starting
from DNA code in the computer. I mean, come on,
as a scientist looking for a job, doing cutting-edge research,
it doesn’t get any better than this. (Laughter) OK, a genome is a complete set
of DNA within an organism. Following the Human
Genome Project in 2003, which was an international
effort to identify the complete genetic blueprint
of a human being, a genomics revolution happened. Scientists started mastering
the techniques for reading DNA. In order to determine the order
of the As, Cs, Ts and Gs within an organism. But my job was far different. I needed to master
the techniques for writing DNA. Like an author of a book, this started out
as writing short sentences, or sequences of DNA code, but this soon turned into
writing paragraphs and then full-on novels of DNA code, to make important biological instructions
for proteins and living cells. Living cells are nature’s most efficient
machines at making new products, accounting for the production of 25 percent of the total
pharmaceutical market, which is billions of dollars. We knew that writing DNA
would drive this bioeconomy even more, once cells could be programmed
just like computers. We also knew that writing DNA
would enable biological teleportation … the printing of defined,
biological material, starting from DNA code. As a step toward bringing
these promises to fruition, our team set out to create,
for the first time, a synthetic bacterial cell, starting from DNA code in the computer. Synthetic DNA is a commodity. You can order very short pieces of DNA
from a number of companies, and they will start from these four
bottles of chemicals that make up DNA, G, A, T and C, and they will build
those very short pieces of DNA for you. Over the past 15 years or so, my teams have been
developing the technology for stitching together
those short pieces of DNA into complete bacterial genomes. The largest genome that we constructed
contained over one million letters. Which is more than twice the size
of your average novel, and we had to put every single one
of those letters in the correct order, without a single typo. We were able to accomplish this
by developing a procedure that I tried to call the “one-step
isothermal in vitro recombination method.” (Laughter) But, surprisingly, the science community
didn’t like this technically accurate name and decided to call it Gibson Assembly. Gibson Assembly
is now the gold standard tool, used in laboratories around the world for building short and long pieces of DNA. (Applause) Once we chemically synthesized
the complete bacterial genome, our next challenge was to find a way to convert it into a free-living,
self-replicating cell. Our approach was to think of the genome
as the operating system of the cell, with the cell containing the hardware
necessary to boot up the genome. Through a lot of trial and error, we developed a procedure
where we could reprogram cells and even convert one
bacterial species into another, by replacing the genome of one cell
with that of another. This genome transplantation
technology then paved the way for the booting-up of genomes
written by scientists and not by Mother Nature. In 2010, all of the technologies that we had been developing
for reading and writing DNA all came together
when we announced the creation of the first synthetic cell, which of course, we called Synthia. (Laughter) Ever since the first bacterial genome
was sequenced, back in 1995, thousands more whole bacterial genomes
have been sequenced and stored in computer databases. Our synthetic cell work
was the proof of concept that we could reverse this process: pull a complete bacterial genome
sequence out of the computer and convert that information
into a free-living, self-replicating cell, with all of the expected characteristics
of the species that we constructed. Now I can understand
why there may be concerns about the safety of this level
of genetic manipulation. While the technology has the potential
for great societal benefit, it also has the potential for doing harm. With this in mind, even before
carrying out the very first experiment, our team started to work
with the public and the government to find solutions together to responsibly develop
and regulate this new technology. One of the outcomes from those discussions
was to screen every customer and every customer’s DNA synthesis orders, to make sure that pathogens or toxins
are not being made by bad guys, or accidentally by scientists. All suspicious orders
are reported to the FBI and other relevant
law-enforcement agencies. Synthetic cell technologies
will power the next industrial revolution and transform industries and economies in ways that address
global sustainability challenges. The possibilities are endless. I mean, you can think of clothes constructed form renewable
biobased sources, cars running on biofuel
from engineered microbes, plastics made from biodegradable polymers and customized therapies,
printed at a patient’s bedside. The massive efforts
to create synthetic cells have made us world leaders at writing DNA. Throughout the process,
we found ways to write DNA faster, more accurately and more reliably. Because of the robustness
of these technologies, we found that we could
readily automate the processes and move the laboratory workflows
out of the scientist’s hands and onto a machine. In 2013, we built the first DNA printer. We call it the BioXp. And it has been absolutely
essential in writing DNA across a number of applications my team and researchers
around the world are working on. It was shortly after we built the BioXp that we received that email
about the H7N9 bird flu scare in China. A team of Chinese scientists
had already isolated the virus, sequenced its DNA and uploaded
the DNA sequence to the internet. At the request of the US government,
we downloaded the DNA sequence and in less than 12 hours,
we printed it on the BioXp. Our collaborators at Novartis then quickly started turning
that synthetic DNA into a flu vaccine. Meanwhile, the CDC, using technology
dating back to the 1940s, was still waiting for the virus
to arrive from China so that they could begin
their egg-based approach. For the first time, we had a flu vaccine
developed ahead of time for a new and potentially
dangerous strain, and the US government ordered a stockpile. (Applause) This was when I began
to appreciate, more than ever, the power of biological teleportation. (Laughter) Naturally, with this in mind, we started to build
a biological teleporter. We call it the DBC. That’s short for
digital-to-biological converter. Unlike the BioXp, which starts from pre-manufactured
short pieces of DNA, the DBC starts from digitized DNA code and converts that DNA code
into biological entities, such as DNA, RNA,
proteins or even viruses. You can think of the BioXp
as a DVD player, requiring a physical DVD to be inserted, whereas the DBC is Netflix. To build the DBC, my team of scientists worked with
software and instrumentation engineers to collapse multiple laboratory workflows, all in a single box. This included software algorithms
to predict what DNA to build, chemistry to link the G, A, T and C
building blocks of DNA into short pieces, Gibson Assembly to stitch together
those short pieces into much longer ones, and biology to convert the DNA
into other biological entities, such as proteins. This is the prototype. Although it wasn’t pretty,
it was effective. It made therapeutic drugs and vaccines. And laboratory workflows
that once took weeks or months could now be carried out
in just one to two days. And that’s all without
any human intervention and simply activated
by the receipt of an email which could be sent
from anywhere in the world. We like to compare
the DBC to fax machines. But whereas fax machines
received images and documents, the DBC receives biological materials. Now, consider how
fax machines have evolved. The prototype of the 1840s
is unrecognizable, compared with the fax machines of today. In the 1980s, most people
still didn’t know what a fax machine was, and if they did, it was difficult for them
to grasp the concept of instantly reproducing an image
on the other side of the world. But nowadays, everything
that a fax machine does is integrated on our smart phones, and of course, we take this rapid exchange
of digital information for granted. Here’s what our DBC looks like today. We imagine the DBC evolving
in similar ways as fax machines have. We’re working to reduce
the size of the instrument, and we’re working to make
the underlying technology more reliable, cheaper,
faster and more accurate. Accuracy is extremely important
when synthesizing DNA, because a single change to a DNA letter could mean the difference
between a medicine working or not or synthetic cell being alive or dead. The DBC will be useful
for the distributed manufacturing of medicine starting from DNA. Every hospital in the world
could use a DBC for printing personalized medicines
for a patient at their bedside. I can even imagine a day
when it’s routine for people to have a DBC to connect to their
home computer or smart phone as a means to download
their prescriptions, such as insulin or antibody therapies. The DBC will also be valuable when placed
in strategic areas around the world, for rapid response to disease outbreaks. For example, the CDC in Atlanta, Georgia could send flu vaccine instructions
to a DBC on the other side of the world, where the flu vaccine is manufactured
right on the front lines. That flu vaccine could even be
specifically tailored to the flu strain that’s circulating in that local area. Sending vaccines around in a digital file, rather than stockpiling those same
vaccines and shipping them out, promises to save thousands of lives. Of course, the applications
go as far as the imagination goes. It’s not hard to imagine
placing a DBC on another planet. Scientists on Earth could then send
the digital instructions to that DBC to make new medicines
or to make synthetic organisms that produce oxygen, food,
fuel or building materials, as a means for making the planet
more habitable for humans. (Applause) With digital information
traveling at the speed of light, it would only take minutes
to send those digital instructions from Earth to Mars, but it would take months
to physically deliver those same samples on a spacecraft. But for now, I would be satisfied
beaming new medicines across the globe, fully automated and on demand, saving lives from emerging
infectious diseases and printing personalized cancer medicines
for those who don’t have time to wait. Thank you. (Applause)

100 thoughts on “How to build synthetic DNA and send it across the internet | Dan Gibson

  1. Dan Gibson should collaborate with Space X to make Mars habitable. Maybe Mars could be habitable as early as 2022, instead of like a whole nother millenium. That would be so cool if he did. ❤

  2. Nice Idea, but it'll be used for other things like making Genetically Engineer Virus to attack a set genetic type, A Virus with your name on it as such… Playing God don't make you God, Mankind is not ready for this level of science, we are too fractured…

  3. We already have natural sustainable material that could power a new industrial revolution overnight but scientists still think we need artificial manipulation and creation to copy what we already have. This will and is already being used to create and spread deadlier diseases and vaccines. Synthetic vaccines are not natural or safe but they’re still being treated as medicine, even though we see the flu vaccine fail year after year. We have the power and technology to utilize our natural and holistic resources, and to create NATURAL (not synthetic) vaccines and pharmaceuticals.

  4. A great tool at its full potential… for the right cause, full of hope in doing so much good with the rights minds / hands, for the people. Thank you, Dr. Dan Gibson.

  5. “Mastered the technique to read DNA” well enough to know we were created by God.

    And yet they stay away from that information like it’s the plague.

    Prayers for protection, in Jesus name. God knows we need it.

  6. लाभले आम्हांस भाग्य
    बोलतो *मराठी*🚩
    जाहलो खरंच धन्य
    ऐकतो *मराठी*🚩
    धर्म, पंथ, जात एक
    जाणतो मराठी 🚩
    एवढ्या जगात माय
    मानतो मराठी 🚩
    मराठी भाषा दिनाच्या हार्दिक शुभेच्छा
    🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩

  7. Why don't you tell the public the truth. Instead of hiding it in plain sight, bullshit disguised as truth. This tech is already far more advanced than you are making out here. Tell them that you are all ready using it to extract souls from one place to another. That you are already experimenting on other people from a distance. Gifted people. Let's see how long it takes for this comment to be deleted or for them to insight a crazy train mindset in the pass majority.

  8. If you can print living cells, you could make perfect matches to blood cells for a person who needs blood. Or if you want to take it a bit farther, and make stem cells.

  9. First. I am not a doctor or medical field worker so i didn't understand all the words in the presentation but;

    Using this technology as the way the Mr. Dan Ginbson presented is very dangerous, he mentioned that his team is thinking about the security issues of this technology but he said that with governments help this issue will be solved but actually this is the problem,

    Governments should not be trusted for the security of the technology, have you heard politicians requesting math scientists and programmers to leave backdoors in encryption algorithms to be used later by government officers why to fight terrorism, some governments are the official face of terror,

    What if a major country government (like U.S., Russia or China govts.) requested to stop or not allow DNA printers to work in some countries (i.e. North Korea, Iran or Yemen) who will help fighting diseases and curing patients? The answer is no one.

  10. 720th viewer! this number is the most remembered one for me because my first salary when I started working was $720. Additionally this lecture is amazing thank you Dr. Gibson.

  11. U can kill with a knife or just cut a piece of bread. But when we will be able to create "life" as well as DNA, than we will probably have another crusade 😉

  12. I think the machine "DBC" it is great step in field medical "Pathological analyzes" or "Pathology" "Opto Genetics" in the level bacteria and viruses, so I thought about the "DBC" can it make Lentiviral vector production??

  13. Please make me 1 Kate Upton, whose genome is: ATTGACCCTAGGTTTGCA…. (am I going too fast for you?) AATCGCGATC…

  14. How much better can life improve, how much more will tech change this life, what can get between the power of the mind and humans ability to be creative.

  15. That's ground breaking, one of the best ted talk about science I have ever seen!!!

    10:02 : John Lithgow is not impressed though.

  16. The right people researching and building the right things, amazing work Gibson and the team(s) contributing to this. Truly amazing!

  17. bwaaahahahaaa!! and the ad happens to be grammarly…
    seriously though… reminded me of back to the future. imagine getting bio-waste putting it in your gas tank and the machine stripping it down to its molecular components and reprinting its own biofuel.

  18. And how close are we to understanding what all that DNA does? Don't get me wrong being able to read and write is fundimental but you have to know what to write and for that you need to know what that DNA does. Saying that you are writing sentences and paragraphs is not a good analogy because when you write a sentence or paragraph you know what that sentence and paragraph means but with DNA that is overwhelmingly not the case.

  19. As much as it's neat (in a morbid way) to think of how these could be the start of Resident Evil, or how lame it is to consider that (pretty sure) current interplanetary law dictates that we cannot contaminate other worlds like Mars with new biological material at least until we know for sure it is entirely barren, technology like this will meet a lot of resistance and red tape. The most powerful and useful advances in science will always be held back the worst, and for the wrong reasons. If these went international, the UN would have to regulate and closely guard them, I would think, no matter what country they're in. At least for the foreseeable future.

  20. this is fascinating. I await the day we can reconstruct and print whiter organisms like kittens. I would be happy forever.

  21. Good presentation and content. Couldn't help laughing a bit though. Watching Dan Gibson give his presentation, I kept thinking of the Elcor from the Mass Effect gaming franchise … a massive, lumbering alien race native to the high-gravity world Dekuuna. Just saying. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i1PKFo1fYCA

  22. Can this system get hacked to print deadly viruses or diseases before anyone could catch this possible terrorist attack? Major countries military systems have all been hacked. Hopefully they have a new internet security protocol to not let something like this from happening.

  23. So many buzz words and futuristic applications, you can tell the presenter is NOT amused by his own talk because he is used to giving much more indepth presentations with actual substance

  24. Well the most inportant thing with the syntetic life is that the church have no objection to how it is used. Otherwise you can take an ordinary cell and mix with. This cuts the band between religion and sience and that is the real big step with it. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  25. This is like internet…vry advantageous…if its possible bad effects are controllable, it would b jst another amazing piece of human technology😃😃😃

  26. Darn!

    Gibson Assembly! = How many of us could have our names as names of processes or procedures?

    My salute this man! 🖖 🎖️

  27. "What could go wrong?" Things will go wrong, you only have to look at any new technology to know that. It's what could go right that matters. What goes wrong will lead to measures, countermeasures, and a society that learns to live with the consequences.

  28. I do not speak english, please You can put subtitles in spanish. I read more and I see your video and I understand best the video, thanks

  29. Something like this was done in Japan long before the human genone was decoded. A kind of analogic storage media writing on nucleotides. Great capacity but the possibility to ensemble unknown viruses after certain lenght of sequences was real.
    Saving thousand of lives on a finite and collapsing world with 230k new inhabitants per day, that's an issue.

  30. Hi, i'm trying to drum up a few views to get my channel off the ground, rare audiobooks and interesting talks. Stay a while and listen 🙂

  31. How do you build the vaccine, simply from knowing it’s Genome? It isn’t as easy as that – if you just replicate the virus, well, it’s just that: the virus, causing immunity AND the disease – does anyone know, how exactly they built the virus? Are there any publications?

  32. I see you're another fake one.
    What are those?
    Devil horns? Under the forehead skin next to the eyebrows
    there yahoo? Huh!!
    WHAT IS THAT?I'm starting to notice a lot more of you images on the screes with something protruding
    fron above eyebrowd.

  33. Very telling that Gibson emphasized "driving this bioeconomy" over eradicating human suffering. There is something very wrong with people who see nothing but dollars signs in the world around them.

    He claims that to succeed at creating the first synthetic microbe, they had to print millions of
    nucleotides "without making a single mistake". Really? Silly me, I thought nature made viable microbes with mistakes all the time. Guess I need to correct my misconceptions about mutation and genetic variation – me and Darwin both. But he also claims that since that first experiment, the accuracy of genetic printing has improved. Good golly, just how accurate is his process? Infallible? But does anyone accept that Gibson understands the sequences he manipulates well enough to avoid unintended consequences?

    He claims "synthetic DNA is a commodity", does this imply that human DNA is a commodity? And that each of us might end up being reduced to some biotech company's patent infringement? Not hard to imagine a dystopian future where little Mengeles like Gibson custom print the various synthetic human slaves the elites desire.

    He worked with "the public" to ensure this technology would not be abused? Do you recall being informed? Let alone consulted? I don't. And isn't it extremely naive to think the FBI will ensure that "bad guys" don't use this technology? (Why not simply rely on our overly broad patent and intellectual property law to protect us?) The FBI did such a good job stitching up patsies for the 2001 anthrax attacks, didn't they? Also protected us from fracking, Monsanto's Roundup, the opioid epidemic, Flint's contaminated water…

    It is frightening to think that this technology will be in the hands of those who knowingly pushed opioids for profit, available to our military and CIA as well as their foreign counterparts, and that our last line of defense against its abuse are politicians who have lied us into war crimes against Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen… and who have sold the people out to the elites every chance they got.

    Like all technology, genetic printing does have a tremendous potential to do good. Unfortunately, I suspect it will be abused and horribly so, Gibson's glib and rose colored assures to the contrary notwithstanding. I'd feel a lot better if there had been an honest public debate on how we could safeguard against abuse. But in a time when human rights are a joke and a mere inconvenience for those among us who see themselves as the ubermensch, that is expecting way too much.

  34. Evil. Stop meddling with God's work. You make yourselves out to be heroes saving humanity. Your "bio economy" will backfire, and you can't even cure the common cold. They killed the blinded with science

  35. Be careful it can get to bad people's hands . Thanks be to God that they can not make animals because they are form from different kinds of cells and many cells until they become organisms . For some people this can be playing to be God. We have those microorganisms naturally , and they reproduce using a guest that can be animals and therefore humans . We can create new diseases because something is going to be wrong. Organisms create ecosystems so they are affecting everyone. The risk for getting and infection is so real in a laboratory that something can go wrong is a fifty fifty percent possibility.

  36. This guy is genius and we should be thankful for his research in this area. I hope he succeeds in his quest. We need more people like him in our society to progress.

  37. What he didn't say and is possible and will happen is sending DNA instruction for a human being and then printing one out. Maybe not today but the way to that option is now open.

  38. If there is war in the world, there is danger. As long as the money owner's of the world keep living this live. We're doomed no matter what they invent.

    You won't even need all those invention's.

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