Close this search box.

Writing human genome might be possible within 10 years

In the coming months, scientists will try to take the HGP-Write (Human Genome Project-Write) from proposal to project. If this succeeds, we might be able to expect a completely synthesized human genome within ten years, at a cost of about 1 billion dollars.

HGP-Write could have wide-ranging, real-world impact. But in its current form, it’s primarily a call for technological advancement in synthetic biology, website Wired writes.  In May 2016, scientists, lawyers and government representatives first discussed at Harvard the Human Genome Project-Write (HGP-Write), a plan to build whole genomes out of chemically synthesised DNA. It will build on the $3 billion (£2.3bn) Human Genome Project, which mapped each letter in the human genome.

A Science paper formalized the Harvard groups proposal: to dramatically advance DNA-synthesis technologies, so that the artificial production of genomes becomes easier, faster, and cheaper. At 12 million base pairs long, yeast is so far the largest genome scientists have tried to produce synthetically. Currently, scientists can synthesise short strands of DNA, up to about 200 base pairs long, but the average gene has several thousand base pairs.

Even this limited process is inefficient, costly and slow. It’s also vital, because in biological sciences, synthesised DNA is the foundation of experiments that drive everything from cancer research to vaccine development. For scientists, it’s like working with a blunt yet necessary instrument.

Ethical questions

Artificial production of genomes also raises the ethically unsettling question of gene patenting, designer humans and parentless babies.  Moving beyond reading DNA to writing DNA is a natural next step," Francis Collins, director of the US National Institutes of Health believes. He warns, however, that any project with real-world implications would require "extensive discussion from different perspectives, most especially including the general public".

Applications beyond the lab are a at the moment distant reality though. Synthesising a human genome may even prove unworkable.  HGP-Write’s central goal is to improve synthesis technologies so it’s easier to write longer strands of genetic material.  DNA is made by using software that designs the layout of a strand, followed by machines in a laboratory that use this template to synthesise and assemble it. This is at best clunky process that limits production to short stretches of DNA.

Andrew Hessel, a researcher with the Bio/Nano research group at software company Autodesk, sees the potential for enhanced software allowing more precise genome design and printing tools that, for instance, harness enzymes to build DNA the way it happens in our cells. "If we can achieve this, it should be possible to write large genomes in hours," he says.


First, the money needs to be found to begin the project. Autodesk has pledged $250,000 in funding for the project, but organisers want to secure $10 million by the end of 2017. In the meantime, they’ll expand the HGP-Write conversation. "I want it to be as open and transparent as possible," says Hessel, "and to keep up as much interest in this powerful universal technology, which will enable us to bring our intention into the machinery we call life."


ICT&health World Conference 2024

Experience the future of healthcare at the ICT&health World Conference from May 14th to 16th, 2024!
Secure your ticket now and immerse yourself in groundbreaking technologies and innovative solutions.
Engage with fellow experts and explore the power of global collaborations.

Share this article!

Read also
How to introduce innovation and AI in healthcare organizations if there is no business model for prevention and quality – Our interview with Professor Ran Balicer, the Chief Innovation Officer at Clalit Health Services and founding Director of Clalit Research Institute.
I see no legitimate rationale for delaying the digital transformation in healthcare
Pioneering Cardiac Arrest Detection for Enhanced Survival.
CardioWatch Revolutionizes Cardiac Arrest Detection
Dr. Oscar Díaz-Cambronero, Head of Perioperative Medicine Department at La Fe Hospital, spearheads innovative telemonitoring initiatives revolutionizing patient care
Smartwatches Saving Lives Inside and Outside the Hospital
EIT 2024
EIT Awards 2024. Two European startups are revolutionizing the treatment of cardiovascular diseases
Bertrand Piccard, Swiss explorer and founder of the Solar Impulse Foundation
EIT Summit 2024. What are the trigger points that drive or inhibit innovation?
MMC pioneers wireless monitoring for premature infants with the innovative Bambi Belt, revolutionizing care with improved comfort and mobility.
Wireless Monitoring of Vital Signs in Premature Infants at Máxima MC
Innovation Adoption: How to Traverse The Valleys of Death
Data protection-critical incidents resulting from human error are often rooted in stress, routine, negative attitudes toward IT, and deficits in employees' identification with the healthcare facility.
How cyberpsychology helps prevent human errors leading to data leaks
What technologies will enter our homes in a few months? ICT&health checked it out at the CES 2024.
CES 2024: Meet the exciting innovations for health and well-being
An article on a new study on e-health assessment tools
eHealth success lies at the intersection of technology, people, and organization
Follow us