Israeli Biotransducer Breakthrough, Bill Gates vs Craig Venter on Bio Computing

Written by David Michaelis

Biotransducer Breakthough: Here’s why, according to our global columnist David Michaelis, MS founder Bill Gates and biologist J. Craig Venter have profoundly differing views on biocomputers and their meaning to humans. Video, analysis, news. — Israeli scientists say they have created the first of its kind — an advanced biotransducer. Using only DNA and enzymes, scientists at the Technion say their transducer is bonafide computer, capable of manipulating genetic codes and using the output as inputs for subsequent computation.

This is fascinating news. Read more about it in the most recent edition of the Chemistry & Biology cell biology journal.

This world first — a breakthrough by any assessment — is well worth watching. Not only does it stand a chance of creating new possibilities in biotech, gene therapy and cloning, but it has far-reaching implications in medicine and bio-computation, too.

Says the project’s lead researcher, Technion Schulich Faculty of Chemistry’s Ehud Keinan:

Our results show a novel, synthetic designed computing machine that computes iteratively and produces biologically relevant results … in addition to enhanced computation power, this DNA-based transducer offers multiple benefits, including the ability to read and transform genetic information, miniaturization to the molecular scale, and the aptitude to produce computational results that interact directly with living organisms.”

As Bill Gates says in the video below the fold, “Human DNA is like a computer program but far more advanced than any software we would ever create.” That statement is in direct contrast with a statement genomics pioneer Craig Ventner makes — you’ll find both comments in the video I’ve embedded below the fold.

In it, Venter says, “Life is basically a result of an information process-a software process.”

Who is correct? The master programmer who founded Microsoft or J. Craig Venter master sequencing scientist, who 13 years ago pitted his team against the U.S. DOD project and race to decode the human genome? The latter was a draw, by the way, when the United States DOD team led by Francis Collins and the private company run by Venter and his computers crossed the finish line at more or less the same time in April 2003. (Disclosure: Our edit director Gina Smith chronicled this battle in her award-winning book, The Genomics Age.)

The apparent clash of world views is also a reflection of what Gates has learned about human suffering and illnesses once he delved into humanitarian work via his own foundation. Craig Venter perhaps is reflecting a kind of hubris — deserved or not — from his viewpoint that humans can and will do anything by merging the efforts of computer scientists and geneticists.

Check out the video below. It is an excellent intro to the challenges facing bio ethics and out perception of ourselves as transmitters of information and medical data. You’ll find Bill Gates and Craig Venter’s clashing comments there, too.

For, I’m David Michaelis.