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Synthetic genomes, life forms and functions

The genome serves as the blueprint of every organism on earth. A rigorous understanding of how genomic information encodes a particular life form, and the ability to design and synthesize new genomes de novo, will drastically advance our understanding of life and improve our ability to engineer organisms. We aim to advance this goal by inventing novel concepts and developing unique methods to ‘write' the sequences of entire genomes within living cells. We have also been exploring applications of such techniques to engineer synthetic organisms with expanded genetic codes and/or new capabilities, and to ultimately create novel life forms with functions beyond the limits of nature. Our proposed steps towards the creation of such synthetic life forms are each significant and substantial; and scalable and modular with other steps in the process. We plan to initially test and push the perceived boundaries of life using Escherichia coli as a model system, and then expand into higher organisms.