Joined by J. Craig Venter, Ph.D., head of the Institute for Biological Energy Alternatives (IBEA), Abraham announced that the IBEA has succeeded in stitching together a genome of a phage, or a virus of bacteria. An article by Dr. Venter and his IBEA colleagues describing their accomplishment is in press with the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"Researchers have made an exciting scientific advance that may speed our ability to develop biology-based solutions for some of our most pressing energy and environmental challenges," Secretary Abraham said. IBEA scientists have assembled more than 5,000 bases or building blocks of DNA to create a small artificial virus, a so-called phage that infects bacteria. Bacteriophages do not infect humans. This advance brings us closer to our goal of creating entire microbes that are 100 to 1,000-times larger than the artificial virus created so far.
"With this advance," Abraham said, "it is easier to imagine, in the not-too-distant future, a colony of specially designed microbes living within the emission-control system of a coal-fired plant, consuming its pollution and its carbon dioxide, or employing microbes to radically reduce water pollution or to reduce the toxic effects of radioactive waste."
Dr. Venter, Dr. Hamilton Smith, who was awarded the 1978 Nobel Prize in Physiology, and their IBEA colleagues synthesized a bacteriophage genome from commercially available materials and created an active phage, a harmless microscopic life form that infects bacteria. The researchers accomplished this in 14 days, from start to finish, reducing the
Contact: Jeff Sherwood
DOE/US Department of Energy