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Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves Hardcover – Oct 2 2012

4.8 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (Oct. 2 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465021751
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465021758
  • Product Dimensions: 23.9 x 16.5 x 2.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 522 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #150,238 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

Review

Science News
“Reading the first book penned by Church, a Harvard biologist and polymath, is like falling down a rabbit hole straight into his fermenting brain. Church’s wide-ranging career includes developing novel methods for reading the genetic instruction manual, or genome, of creatures from bacteria to humans. Now he focuses on synthesizing those instructions from scratch.... [A] dizzying survey of how scientists have unearthed the secrets of living organisms and are now using that information to revamp life itself.”

Robert T. Gonzalez, io9
“[A] phenomenal read.”

Wall Street Journal
“A definitive account of the advances and business ventures that define this new science [of synthetic biology]…. When history is written centuries from now, it is more likely that writing DNA will be the most enduring innovation [of our age].”

New Scientist
“Bold and provocative… Church and Regis offer a behind-the-scenes look at synthetic biology, a rapidly emerging field that is reprogramming the genetic code to create organisms and functions not found in nature. Regenesis tells of recent advances that may soon yield endless supplies of renewable energy, increased longevity and the return of long-extinct species.”

Nature
“The life sciences emerge as the new high-tech in this paean to synthetic biology…. Each step in the genome’s evolution serves as a springboard for expositions of how synthetic biology will revolutionize renewable energy, multivirus resistance, and more.”

Mike Loukides, O’Reilly Radar
“If there’s one book that can turn this movement into a full-blown revolution, this is it.”

Derek Jacoby, O’Reilly Radar
“George Church and Ed Regis pull off an exciting and speculative romp through the field of synthetic biology and where it could take us in the not too distant future…. Regenesis provides an accessible and engaging introduction to the revolutionary potentials of synthetic biology and should be of interest to both experts and a general science audience.”

The Scientist
“[A]n important and surprisingly accessible book, magisterially structured to intertwine the accelerated history of synthetic biology with its precedents in humanity’s earlier technological revolutions and in the epochal evolution of life itself. The book packs in a superb short course on life’s molecular workings, enabling the reader to grasp how we can actually contemplate resurrecting mammoths and Neanderthals, brewing biofuel from seawater and sunlight, engineering total immunity to viral infection, storing data in DNA, and more.”

Nathan Myhrvold, Founder and CEO, Intellectual Ventures
“A delightfully opinionated, visionary and controversial romp through synthetic biology, which is one of the most important technologies of our time."

Eric Topol, Professor of Genomics, The Scripps Research Institute, and author of The Creative Destruction of Medicine
“Literally reinventing nature could provide solutions to intractable problems with the energy supply, global warming, and human health. In Regenesis, George Church, a pioneer and pre-eminent force in promoting our ability to read DNA sequence, now guides us to the future: writing DNA sequence. Teaming up with Ed Regis, Church provides a mind-bending, tour de force account of how this seventh industrial revolution will take hold, and how ultimately the survival of our planet and the human species may rely upon rewriting the code of life. An enthralling journey into the future—with truly profound implications—that should not be missed.”

Stewart Brand, author of Whole Earth Discipline
“Here you will find the bleeding, screaming, thrilling edges of what is becoming possible with genomic engineering, handsomely framed in the fine-grained fundamentals of molecular biology. It is a combination primer and forecast of what is coming in this ‘century of biology’ from the perspective of a leading pioneer in the science.”

Kirkus Reviews
“[An] authoritative, sometimes awe-inspiring book…. A valuable glimpse of science at the edge.”

Publishers Weekly
“Exhilarating and scary facts suffuse this book about bioengineering by leading Harvard genetics professor and entrepreneur Church…. [W]hen Church describes current work building microbes with minimal genes, the book takes off – and eventually soars…. [A] stimulating book.”

Steven Pinker, Harvard College Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of How the Mind Works and The Better Angels of Our Nature
“A thoughtful introduction to one of the great frontiers of science, one with the promise of literally saving the world. George Church is one of the most brilliant scientists in the world, and in collaboration with Ed Regis he has written a book that is engaging, readable, and thoroughly fascinating.”

J. Craig Venter, Chairman and President, J. Craig Venter Institute
“Church and Regis in Regenesis have written a wonderful synopsis of the emerging field of synthetic biology and the implications from renewable plastics to ‘raising the dead.’ This is a must-read for anyone interested in the future.”

Misha Angrist, Assistant Professor, Duke Institute for Genome Sciences & Policy, and author of Here is a Human Being
Regenesis is the most compelling bit of prophecy since the Old Testament first came out in hardback.”

About the Author

George Church is Professor of Genetics at the Harvard Medical School and member of the Wyss Institute of Biologically Inspired Engineering. He is the director of the Lipper Center for Computational Genetics, the Harvard DOE Genomes-to-Life Center, the NIH Center for Excellence in Genomic Science, and PersonalGenomes.org. Church was the driving force behind the Polonator G.007, a low-cost automated genomic sequencing machine. He lives in Brookline, Massachusetts.

Ed Regis is author of seven science books, most recentlyWhat Is Life?: Investigating the Nature of Life in the Age of Synthetic Biology. He lives in Sabillasville, Maryland.

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Format: Hardcover
*A full executive summary of this book is available at newbooksinbrief dot com.

DNA was only discovered about a century ago, and it’s structure remained a mystery until about half a century ago, but since this time our knowledge and understanding of DNA has grown immensely (indeed exponentially). What’s more, this understanding has evolved to include not just an understanding of how DNA works, but also how it can be manipulated to help advance our ends. The most glaring example here is the phenomenon of genetically modified food. Though not without controversy initially (and some fringe opposition that lives on to this day), it is fair to say that genetically modified food was one of the major scientific advances of the 20th century. Over and above this, our understanding of DNA appeared to reach its most impressive manifestation with the successful sequencing of the human genome in the year 2000.

For the genetics professor and pioneering genetic engineer George Church, however, genetically modified food and the Human Genome Project are but the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the potential of genomics. Indeed, since the year 2005, the exponential growth rate in our ability to read and write DNA has increased from 1.5-fold per year (a rate that matches Moore’s law), to the incredible rate of 10-fold per year (p. 243). This explosion in scientific and technological progress has resulted in dramatic advancements in the areas of biochemicals, biomaterials, biofuels and biomedicine. What’s more, advancements in these technologies are but in their incipient stage, and the future of genomics promises to dwarf these initial achievements.
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This book seems to attempt to reach people with first-year college knowledge in biology as well as people simply interested in synthetic biology. Some of the sections contain biological knowledge that is hard to follow (without a degree in biology), and the frustrating bit is that you don't really need those sections to understand the synthetic biology sections.

All in all it's a good book, but split between two distinct levels.
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When I saw that George Church - known for the genetic "killswitch", the 3D structure of the ribosome and much more - had written a book, I ordered it the next day. When it arrived, I was anything but disappointed.

True to reputation, Church takes his readers on a journey through existing technologies and possibilities many of us would never dream of. Think carpets manufactured by bacteria, Eco-friendly bioplastics, seed-grown houses, bringing extinct species back to life, induced viral immunity, DNA cryptography, and turning your compost or toilet into a power plant. He presents the living organism as a programmable machine much like a computer - a thrilling and horrifying idea all at once.

Although I am quite familiar with molecular biology, one does not need to be to read Regenesis.To those without a background in biology, the book may be a bit dense, but it is perfectly accessible. For example, in order to explain how one would actually go about inducing immunity to all viruses (reversing an entire organism's stereochemistry), Church explains what stereochemistry is, why it is important, and how (by altering an organism's genetic code) we could bring about a "mirror" organism that viruses would not be able to infect. All of the information one needs to understand how powerful synthetic biology can be (and its limitations) are contained between this book's two covers, even if it is a lot to digest at once.

While the difference between "can" and "aught to" statements in the book are not always clearly outlined, by no means does Church shy away from ethical discussions.
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Real life trumps fiction. Books like this make you realise what a interesting place the world really is. Read this book and you will see how close we really are to what sci fi was 40 years ago.
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Awesome!
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