Synthetic Genomics, Inc., a new company that will develop and commercialize synthetic biology, was launched today. The Company will engineer modular “cassette” based systems to execute specific functions using reprogrammed cells as bio-factories. Synthetic Genomics, Inc.’s initial focus will be on ethanol and hydrogen production.

After leveraging enormous archives of genomic sequence data, the Company will integrate novel processes to design, build, and test desired outputs from synthetic organisms.

According to J. Craig Venter, Ph.D., founder, chairman and chief executive officer of the Company, “Rapid advances in high throughput DNA sequencing and synthesis, as well as high performance computing and bioinformatics, now enable us to synthesize novel photosynthetic and metabolic pathways. Using diverse sets of genes, including those from over 300 fully-sequenced genomes, will allow our new company to develop synthetic organisms for specific industrial applications.”

A host cell that has reduced and reoriented metabolic needs can generate biological energy applicable to a broad range of industrial fields including energy, industrial organic compounds, pharmaceuticals, CO2 sequestration, fine chemicals, and environmental remediation. “We are in an era of rapid advances in science and are beginning the transition from being able to not only read genetic code, but are now moving to the early stages of being able to write code,” said Dr. Venter.

Founder and president Juan Enriquez added, “Harnessing the power of synthetic biology can lead to alternative energy sources that may have a significant impact on energy markets. We need to rapidly develop non-petrochemical, cleaner burning fuels.”

Synthetic Genomics, Inc. will collaborate with and sponsor research at the J. Craig Venter Institute, a non-profit institution with approximately 200 staff and scientists with expertise in genomics, microbiology, human and evolutionary biology, bioinformatics, high throughput DNA sequencing, environmental biology, information technology, biological energy research, and synthetic biology.

“Our sequencing of the first genomes, including the human genome, set the stage for this next great phase in understanding biology, which will ultimately enable us to pursue applications that will improve the environment and transform several industries,” said founder, co-chief scientific officer and Nobel laureate Hamilton Smith, MD. “Our group of renowned synthetic biology researchers at the institute has already made significant advances, including the synthesis of the Phi-X174 bacteriophage genome.”

Drs. Venter and Smith have long been focused on the ethical issues surrounding synthetic biology. They, along with various institute and external researchers, initiated a comprehensive policy review with ethical and scientific leaders prior to conducting the first experiments. The Venter Institute also recently announced participation in a major new policy study that will explore the risks and benefits of synthetic genomics.

In addition to Dr. Venter and Mr. Enriquez, the other founders and management team at Synthetic Genomics include: Dr. Smith, executive vice president and co-chief scientific officer; and David Kiernan, MD, JD, executive vice president and general counsel.

More here.