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Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves
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Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  779 ratings  ·  83 reviews
Imagine a future in which human beings have become immune to all viruses, in which bacteria can custom-produce everyday items, like a drinking cup, or generate enough electricity to end oil dependency. Building a house would entail no more work than planting a seed in the ground. These scenarios may seem far-fetched, but pioneering geneticist George Church and science writ ...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published October 2nd 2012 by Basic Books (first published September 1st 2012)
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3.80  · 
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 ·  779 ratings  ·  83 reviews


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Jason Yang
As a postdoc in a prominent synthetic biology lab, I picked up this book with great enthusiasm - particularly because George Church has been an important leader in our field.

In this work, Dr. Church provides a detailed perspective on the history of synthetic biology. To his credit, he does a good job demystifying the field - often separating science potential from science fiction. Moreover, Dr. Church does a great job explaining in layman terms some of the most important discoveries/milestones i
...more
Maria
Following a evolutionary timescale, the authors introduce you from the "greatest story ever", the story of the genome, all the way to synthetic genomics. Here are some points I found interesting and worth discussing among many other things you could find:

First of all, on the Late Hadean period you will be introduced on abiogenesis, is it possible that organic molecules can arise from inorganic molecules? Darwin knew, when he wrote On the Origin of Species, that he wasn't ready to answer this eve
...more
Daniel R.
Nov 04, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mos
I found this book suffered from self-aggrandizing and minutiae which combined to make it a chore to read and understand. It felt that because the authors were involved with much of the material being discussed they focused on a level of detail uninteresting to that of a layperson. It resulted in uneven tone and scope between chapters. I did gain some understanding of synthetic biology and how research around it is progressing but overall I'd give book a pass.
Jennifer
Jan 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
Just when I was starting to feel a little self-conscious about my list so far being dominated by graphic novels and children's books, I managed to plow through this tome. Okay, that's an unfair characterization. At times, I was enraptured by this book. I delivered spontaneous lectures to my husband and my co-workers. I posted quotes on Facebook. I engaged in conversation with a cashier who took my money after I spent a lunch period reading voraciously. But to get to these amazing stories, to get ...more
Cora
Jul 06, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bart: How would I go about creating a half-man, half-monkey-type creature?
Mrs. Krabappel: I'm sorry, that would be playing God.
Bart: God-schmod, I want my monkey man.


I picked up REGENESIS after reading a number of popular science articles on the promise of synthetic biology. The technological advances being made now are truly astonishing to me--Moore's Law famously has computer processing power doubling every 18 months; in comparison, the speed of DNA sequencing & synthesis improved tenfol
...more
Remy
Jul 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: prospective biohackers
Right out of the gate, I've got to say I didn't care for the layout. It seems a bit haphazard for my tastes. Also, the assumed level of the audience's knowledge on the topic seems to really jump around. Some things got simplified that really didn't need to be, while others were well over my head and had no explanation. Given the expertise of the author, I think this is probably a 'curse of knowledge' problem. There's probably not much he could do about it personally, but having it screened by a ...more
Fred Rose
Oct 15, 2012 rated it it was ok
This was a very odd book. It started with a couple of very detailed chapters talking about molecular structure that didn't seem all that relevant to the topic. But then gradually become less and less technical and more and more speculative. Hence the best chapters were the ones in the middle, talking about challenges of cloning extinct species or vaccines/treatments for viruses. Synthetic biology is pretty interesting stuff and will be become more and more relevant to daily lives, so this was a ...more
Sai
Dec 30, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: futurism
Torn whether this book is worth recommending or not.. the first two chapters were fine, then the book takes a bit of a downturn only to get pretty fun and engaging in the last two-three chapters.

The author, Dr. Church, seems like someone who is a deep thinker and prolific scientist in the field of synthetic biology. He understands his field well and is arguably very excited to talk about it to the masses. Yet, the book suffers in the middle because:
- he doesn't explain the university-level conce
...more
Carlos
Oct 09, 2012 rated it did not like it
This book started out great and got progressively worse and worse. The authors start by describing one of the most exciting results of genetic engineering, biodegradable plastic that was grown from genetically modified bacterial cultures and go on to describe the incredible potential of this field. Unfortunately the book then shifts tone and while still describing the potential for developing new materials, or improving healthcare, the authors, especially in sections seemed to be written by Chur ...more
Mike
Dec 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
There are many flaws: too many details about Church's many startups, abrupt switches between relatively technical biological language (for a non-biologist) and language appropriate in a mass market book.

In the end, though, these flaws are minor. Church is one of the biggest thinkers of our time, and his ideas are among the most important. We're at the start of a revolution in biology that could dwarf the computer revolution, and Church is among the leaders. If you're at all interested in where
...more
Brenda Cooper
Sep 15, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A tough read, but worth the work

I usually read science books by science writers. This is a science book by a scientist, and thus it was hard for a lay person. I advise not being disheartened by the early chapters. Later chapters touch more on the possibilities and are far more comprehensible for those of us who went to school before they taught DNA. Synthetic biology is fascinating, and the fact that Church is one of the prominent people in the field makes it even more interesting,
Charles
Oct 15, 2014 rated it liked it
Interesting, but a little disappointing ..

Not scientific enough for those who know a little molecular biology; not general enough for those who don't.

A few thought-provoking insights, but not as ground-breaking as I thought it would be.

A collaborative effort by a scientist-writer and a layman-writer also made for a cumulatively awkward literary style.
Aaron Thibeault
Oct 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
*A full executive summary of this book is available at: http://newbooksinbrief.com/2012/10/30...

DNA was only discovered about a century ago, and its 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 he
...more
Eric Pollock
Nov 27, 2016 rated it liked it
Imagine a world where micro-organisms are the mainstay source for petroleum and clean biofuel, humans are genetically altered and impervious to things like HIV and TB--even the existence of mirror organisms spawned from increasing the number of amino acids and proteins. While it sounds like stuff right out of a science fiction movie Regis and Church provide insight into how the seemingly impossible can be achieved through synthetic biology. Beginning with a history of the evolution of genomics, ...more
Dave Robison
Jul 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
"Regenesis" is an amazing read that articulately describes the past and present of synth-bio research and the astonishing achievements of the innovative minds exploring it. In addition, it casts a cautious eye to the future, pointing out the break-throughs that are just around the corner and offers salient questions for what lies beyond.

The first chapters were a challenge, addressing the hard science of molecular biology and cellular anatomy, but they laid a foundation for the remarkable content
...more
Baal Of
Apr 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
A fascinating tour of past and current developments in synthetic biology, heavy on speculation about where all of this will eventually lead. The author is an active researcher, and so we get an insider's perspective, although the personal descriptions of research projects can sometime feel a bit self-aggrandizing. Some of the passages detailing lists of companies doing active research were a bit tedious, but then that serves to demonstrate how seriously people are taking synthetic biology. I hav ...more
graham
Jan 24, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This author wants "an extremely adventurous female" to help him clone a Neanderthal . Science approaching sci fi.
Nils
Sep 22, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: future-humans
The basic pretense of synthetic biology is stated well here: "Just as computers were universal machines in the sense that given the appropriate programming they could simulate the activities of any other machine, so biological organisms approached the condition of being universal constructors in the sense that with appropriate changes to their genetic programming, they could be made to produce practically any imaginable artifact." (4) The book mixes a description of the ambitions of synthetic bi ...more
Sandeep Tammu
May 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2017
A talk by George Church about personal genome project prompted me to read this one. Overall, a good introduction to synthetic biology, although it becomes too complex to comprehend sometimes.

Each chapter is diverse tackling a specific use case of synthetic biology. Some of the interesting pieces include synthetic bio generated petroleum, engineering E.Coli to specific tasks like generation of drugs, mirror molecules to cure all diseases and specific gene therapies. It is interesting to see most
...more
Emily
Aug 03, 2018 rated it liked it
A bit of a slog at times with some inside jokes and elbow jabs the general reader is likely not to be privy to, but an interesting pop-science read. I believe I came across this book through a brief appearance of the author in a PBS science show talking about how he wanted to resurrect the Woolly Mammoth, a la Jurassic Park. Apparently, ancient Woolly Mammoth carcasses are turning up with quite some frequency in Siberia due to climate change and the thawing not-so-perma permafrost. So, there is ...more
Houston Garcia
Feb 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
George Church is a revolutionary. His vision for the future of synthetic biology and genetic engineering bridges the gap between science fiction and scientific fact. Equally as important, he measures the level of political, social, economic, and even religious roadblocks that genetic engineering (of microbes and human genomes) has experienced since its inception. He ends the book with optimistic recommendations for future research and stresses the need for a balance between strict oversight and ...more
Vlad Dziuba
Feb 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
The author covers discoveries in the field of synthetic biology of the first decade of the 21st century. Also, he describes a possible future application of genome modification. He describes it without specific details so the book is suitable for reading even non-biologist like me.

Most interesting topics for me were:
1. What is chirality? How it can be used for designing reverse-life immune to current viruses.
2. What is a way to resurrect extinct species? How far we are from resurrecting mammoths
...more
Jesse Leavitt-Gallo
Dec 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book hooked me from the start, where Church summarized the progression of synthetic biology from its early days in generating bioplastics to the near future science fiction-esque developments of Homo evolutis (Humans 2.0).

The chapters in the book are methodically placed to emulate the progression of evolution on Earth from the early Hadean eon to the Anthropocene. Church describes parallels in the classic theory of the RNA world, and how the evolution of self-replicating molecules compares
...more
Joakim
Jan 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
This books gets a bit technical in the beginning. Do I really need to know where things bond to make a polymer? The chapters are broken down to epochs, so things being technical at first is understandable. As we cross Holocene, the books gets more general in terms of what is possible with synthetic biology. The questions is - what is not possible with synthetic genes? It can even be used to bring back the woolly mammoth..given we find a good sample of germ cells frozen somewhere in ice. It is al ...more
Krvoje Aplusovski
Nov 14, 2017 rated it liked it
As an overview of the current state of synthetic biology, this book is at times wondrous, then scary, then surprising. The tone and the themes are uneven, however, and some of the chapters meander a bit, making the book lose focus and makes portions of the book seem more like a collection of author's essays and reports on certain biotech events. It's a good insight in the modern state of the field, though.
Dave
Sep 27, 2017 rated it liked it
A scattered book with many interesting sections and many asides that are puzzling and not followed up on at all. Overall a good survey of some of the many areas synthetic biology will influence in our society.
Richard C
Jun 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: seminal
Dr. Church really has prescient insights into where biology is heading. It seems that his visions of where we have been, and where we are now will ultimately lead to a future that is more fantastic than science fiction
Sumit
Dec 23, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Written by one of the most eminent scientists in biotechnology, this book is not an easy read. Especially the first couple of chapters are a bit too technical, and can be daunting for someone not well versed in the concepts of genetics.
Tfalcone
Sep 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Love this book, but it may be over some lay people's head. Read this if you have a love for chirality and enantiomers. The idea of biosynthetics and using bacteria to make carpets is amazing, as is the idea to use bacteria to clean up wastewater and at the same time make electricity.
Nick
Jan 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Expanded my knowledge on synthetic biology! I think I had an advantage in understanding the narrative because I already had a biology background, but he devotes a whole chapter to the fundamentals
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“(The genomes of two individual humans differ by an average of about 3 million positions, which is approximately 0.1 percent of the total. Most of these are single base changes or changes in tandem repeat lengths.)” 1 likes
“Still, it is possible to outlaw entire technologies. In 2006 Kevin Kelly, the former editor of Wired magazine, did a study of the effectiveness of technology prohibitions across the last thousand years, beginning in the year 1000. During this period governments had banned numerous technologies and inventions, including crossbows, guns, mines, nuclear bombs, electricity, automobiles, large sailing ships, bathtubs, blood transfusions, vaccines, television, computers, and the Internet. Kelly found that few technology prohibitions had any staying power and that in general, the more recent the prohibition, the shorter its duration. Figure Epilogue Kevin Kelly’s chart of the duration of a technology prohibition plotted against the year in which it was imposed.” 1 likes
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