After Secret Harvard Meeting, Scientists Announce Plans for Synthetic Human Genomes

WASHINGTON POST — Three weeks ago, 130 scientists, entrepreneurs and policy leaders held an invitation-only, closed-door meeting at Harvard University to discuss an ambitious plan to create synthetic human genomes. Now, after a flurry of criticism over the secrecy of the effort, the participants have published their idea, declaring that they’re launching a project to radically reduce the cost of synthesizing genomes — a potentially revolutionary development in biotechnology that could enable technicians to grow human organs for transplantation.

The announcement, published Thursday in the journal Science, is the latest sign that biotechnology is going through a rapidly advancing but ethically fraught period. Scientists have been honing their techniques for manipulating the complex molecules that serve as the code for all life on the planet, and this same issue of the journal Science reports a breakthrough in editing RNA, a molecule that is the close cousin of DNA.

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