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SyntheticHow Life Got Made$
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Sophia Roosth

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780226440323

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226440637.001.0001

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Analysis: Synthesis

Analysis: Synthesis

(p.1) Introduction Analysis: Synthesis

Sophia Roosth

University of Chicago Press

“Analysis: Synthesis” first surveys the current landscape of American synthetic biology: its research centers, funding sources, commercial applications, and notable projects. The chapter traces the historical precursors of synthetic biology in the life sciences from the early nineteenth century to now, and differentiates synthetic biology’s project from earlier efforts to make or manipulate organisms in laboratories, whether in the service of experimental biology or biotechnology. The chapter argues that in the wake of the Human Genome Project, twenty-fist century molecular biology is no longer guided by an overarching theory, whether hypothetical, experimental, or otherwise. Molecular biology, bioinformatics, and genomics now swim in a torrent more noise than signal: genomes sequenced, protein structures uploaded, and most of the rest databased, tabulated, and released online. The turning point presaged by what some call “the postgenomic era” has practical consequences, not just for which living things now occupy our world but also for how some biologists understand what “life itself” is. Synthetic biologists responded to this state of affairs by claiming that if all the data collected, collated, coaxed, and tended by experimental inquiry are not enough, then biological manufacture will serve as life’s new “theory machine.”

Keywords:   analysis, synthesis, postgenomic era, manufacture, theory

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