The cost of both decoding DNA and synthesizing new DNA strands… is falling about five times as fast as computing power is increasing under Moore’s Law, which has accurately predicted that chip performance will double roughly every two years. Those involved in synthetic biology, who often favor computer analogies, might say it’s becoming exponentially easier to read from, and write into, the source code of life.
These underlying technology trends, says Church, are leading to an explosion in experimentation of a sort that would have been inconceivable only a few years ago.
Up to now, it’s proved stubbornly difficult to turn synthetic biology into a practical technology that can create products like cheap biofuels. Scientists have found that the “code of life” is far more complex and difficult to crack than anyone might have imagined a decade ago.
What’s more, while rewriting the code is easier than ever, getting it right isn’t. Researchers and entrepreneurs have found ways to coax bacteria or yeast to make many useful compounds, but it has been difficult to optimize such processes so that the microbes produce significant quantities efficiently enough to compete with existing commercial products.