Craig Venter’s Vision to Print Life

Two recent articles (here and here) have outlined what may be one of the most interesting developments in 3D printing.  Craig Venter, a noted geneticist sat down at the Wired Health Conference and discussed how 3D printing is making an impact in the world of virology.

According to Venter, “We found a way we can move proteins, viruses and single human cells at the speed of light…We can digitize biology, send it at the speed of light and reconfigure the biology at the other end. “

Venter’s vision includes being able to download a digitized copy of a virus’ DNA and print a vaccine to avoid contagion and to better improve immunization. “It’s a 3D printer for DNA, a 3D printer for life,” said Venter.

While details about the construction of such a printer are still sketchy, the importance of such a device is clear. 3D printing can allow the rapid manufacturing of many things; in this case, custom designed vaccines.  Being able to experiment and reprogram genetic material to find a vaccine could be critical in averting a global pandemic.

At the conference Venter related a story about the 2009 H1N1 outbreak in Mexico City that underscores the importance of his idea.

“They couldn’t get the virus out of the metropolis because authorities wouldn’t allow it, he said. That delayed efforts to stem the spread of the virus, and thousands of people died.

Had they been able to digitize it, they could have e-mailed it, and “it could have gone around the world digitally,” allowing researchers to study it and to build a vaccine more quickly, Venter said.

Usually I’m much more skeptical about ideas that have such a starry-eyed view of the future, but Craig Venter has time and again turned the seemingly impossible into reality.

Read The Entire Articles at The Atlantic and Wired.