A biotech brain trust is starting a new company that hopes to make a leap for genetic engineering that is comparable to moving from an old mainframe computer to a smaller, faster PC.

The new firm, Codon Devices, is aiming to perfect a new technology that would allow scientists to edit sequences of DNA with never-before-seen ease. The leap might be akin to going from having to correct articles with Wite-Out to editing them onscreen with a word processor. The goal is to move from having to merely tweak the proteins that are used as biotech drugs to being able to design them, even taking material from multiple organisms and using them to create new, functional genes.

“I think if we pull it off, it changes everything to do with our interaction with the living world,” says Drew Endy, a young MIT professor who is one of the company’s co-founders. “We’ll see if it works.”

By Matthew Herper

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