An alarming new report indicates that Harvard had a secret meeting on a synthetic human genome.
Harvard University held a secret meeting this past week to discuss the possibility of creating human life from scratch with chemicals.
That’s the shocking claim of Stanford scientist Drew Endy, who is claiming in an essay for Cosmos magazine that researchers were discussing how to create a synthetic human genome.
Endy wrote the essay slamming the project along with Northwestern University bioethicist Laurie Zoloth. The project was discussed in private among about 130 scientists, lawyers, entrepreneurs, and government officials. They had a goal of synthesizing a complete human genome within a decade.
It’s a startling project that would essentially create a human being like one was assembling a toy. And, not surprisingly, it raises all sorts of ethical questions.
Genome synthesis is believed to be possible because human life appears to essentially come from code.
As the human genome is 3 billion bases long, the practice used to be cost-prohibitive, as it cost $4 per base to assemble a gene. That has since dropped to 3 cents per base. If the cost reductions keep dropping as they have, the price of the human genome could be just $100,000 in 20 years.
“The perspectives of others including self-identified theologians, philosophers, and ethicists from a variety of traditions should be sought out from the very beginning,” Endy wrote. “Critical voices representing civil society, who have long been sceptical of synthetic biology’s claims, should also be included. The creation of new human life is one of the last human-associated processes that has not yet been industrialised or fully commodified. It remains an act of faith, joy, and hope. Discussions to synthesise, for the first time, a human genome should not occur in closed rooms.”