Imagine a future in which human beings have become immune to all viruses, in which bacteria can custom-produce everyday items, like a drinking cup, or generate enough electricity to end oil dependency. Building a house would entail no more work than planting a seed in the ground. These scenarios may seem far-fetched, but pioneering geneticist George Church and science writer Ed Regis show that synthetic biology is bringing us ever closer to making such visions a reality.
In Regenesis, Church and Regis explorethe possibilities – and perils – of the emerging field of synthetic biology. Synthetic biology, in which living organisms are selectively altered by modifying substantial portions of their genomes, allows for the creation of entirely new species of organisms. Until now, nature has been the exclusive arbiter of life, death, and evolution; with synthetic biology, we now have the potential to write our own biological future. Indeed, as Church and Regis show, it even enables us to revisit crucial points in the evolution of life and, through synthetic biological techniques, choose different paths from those nature originally took. Such exploits will involve far more than just microbial tinkering. Full-blown genomic engineering will make possible incredible feats, from resurrecting woolly mammoths and other extinct organisms to creating mirror life forms with a molecular structure the opposite of our own.
These technologies – far from the out-of-control nightmare depicted in science fiction – have the power to improve human and animal health, increase our intelligence, enhance our memory, and even extend our life span. A breathtaking look at the potential of this world-changing technology, Regenesis is nothing less than a guide to the future of life.
“Bold and provocative [...] Regenesis tells of recent advances that may soon yield endless supplies of renewable energy, increased longevity and the return of long-extinct species.”
– New Scientist
"A delightfully opinionated, visionary and controversial romp through synthetic biology, which is one of the most important technologies of our time."
– Nathan Myhrvold, Founder and CEO, Intellectual Ventures
"Literally reinventing nature could provide solutions to intractable problems with the energy supply, global warming, and human health. In Regenesis, George Church, a pioneer and pre-eminent force in promoting our ability to "read" DNA sequence, now guides us to the future: "writing" DNA sequence. Teaming up with Ed Regis, Church provides a mind-bending, tour de force account of how this seventh industrial revolution will take hold, and how ultimately the survival of our planet and the human species may rely upon rewriting the code of life. An enthralling journey into the future – with truly profound implications – that should not be missed."
– Eric Topol, Professor of Genomics, The Scripps Research Institute, and author of The Creative Destruction of Medicine
"Here you will find the bleeding, screaming, thrilling edges of what is becoming possible with genomic engineering, handsomely framed in the fine-grained fundamentals of molecular biology. It is a combination primer and forecast of what is coming in this 'century of biology' from the perspective of a leading pioneer in the science."
– Stewart Brand, author of Whole Earth Discipline
"[An] authoritative, sometimes awe-inspiring book [...] A valuable glimpse of science at the edge."
– Kirkus Reviews
"Exhilarating and scary facts suffuse this book about bioengineering by leading Harvard genetics professor and entrepreneur Church [...] [W]hen Church describes current work building microbes with minimal genes, the book takes off – and eventually soars [...] [A] stimulating book."
– Publishers Weekly
"A thoughtful introduction to one of the great frontiers of science, of the great frontiers of science, one with the promise of literally saving the world. George Church is one of the most brilliant scientists in the world, and in collaboration with Ed Regis he has written a book that is engaging, readable, and thoroughly fascinating.”
– Steven Pinker, Harvard College Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of How the Mind Works and The Better Angels of Our Nature
“Church and Regis in Regenesis have written a wonderful synopsis of the emerging field of synthetic biology and the implications from renewable plastics to ‘raising the dead.’ This is a must-read for anyone interested in the future.”
– J. Craig Venter, Chairman and President, J. Craig Venter Institute
“Regenesis is the most compelling bit of prophecy since the Old Testament first came out in hardback.”
– Misha Angrist, Assistant Professor, Duke Institute for Genome Sciences & Policy, and author of Here is a Human Being