A scientific cause well worth backing

Tomorrow the Science Minister sets out a plan for £60m state investment in "synthetic biology". The potential here is unimaginable

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Genetically engineered mice carrying lab-built human chromosomes?

Yeast cells packed with artificial genetic material that enables them to produce, not bread, but a cellulose material that could make, say, a mobile phone? Surely this is the stuff of science fiction?

Except that it is not. The mice are already alive and kicking, thanks to research on new techniques for gene therapy. And the development of super-powered yeast (or a prototype of it, at least) is part of the plan for the £60m of state investment in “synthetic biology” that the Science minister is setting out today.

There is nigh unimaginable potential here – from medicine to fuel, from plastics to electronics. The question is not if the marriage of biology and engineering will change the world, it is when. The Government is right that Britain should lead the field – and right to use public money to help the fledgling industry along.

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