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Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves [Kindle Edition]

George M. Church , Ed Regis
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

“Bold and provocative… Regenesis tells of recent advances that may soon yield endless supplies of renewable energy, increased longevity and the return of long-extinct species.”—New Scientist

In Regenesis, Harvard biologist George Church and science writer Ed Regis explore the possibilities—and perils—of the emerging field of synthetic biology. Synthetic biology, in which living organisms are selectively altered by modifying substantial portions of their genomes, allows for the creation of entirely new species of organisms. These technologies—far from the out-of-control nightmare depicted in science fiction—have the power to improve human and animal health, increase our intelligence, enhance our memory, and even extend our life span. A breathtaking look at the potential of this world-changing technology, Regenesis is nothing less than a guide to the future of life.

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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 biologys

About the Author

George M. Church is Professor of Genetics at the Harvard Medical School and member of the Wyss Institute of Biologically Inspired Engineering. Ed Regis is author of seven science books, most recently What Is Life? Investigating the Nature of Life in the Age of Synthetic Biology.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Brief Summary and Review 20 Oct. 2012
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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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By LV
Format:Hardcover
As somebody that has slightly more synthetic biology knowledge than the lay person, I found this hard to read. Whilst Church is clearly a brilliant man, a lot of the radical predictions he makes here are further beyond reach than they are laid out to be. As somebody enthusiastic about synbio, I worry that this sort of book will scare people and add further fuel to the fire of those who are already against the relatively modest (but beautiful) research that is currently carried out. I couldn't finish it.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It's good but it's tough going 26 April 2013
By Cooler
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
You know a book that you want to like, but you just can't get into it. The concept of Regenesis really appealed to me, and I really wanted to like it.

It started well, and the description of the advancements we made and technology available is truly amazing. But the fact remains I found it a tough, dare I say tedious, read and the truth is I nodded off while reading it.

This is not a direct criticism of the book, just to forewarn that it is not as mainstream reading as some may desire.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 6 Mar. 2015
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
excellent
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  63 reviews
72 of 82 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars could have been one chapter 23 Jan. 2013
By John - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
A book outlining the future of sythetic biology and its implications is long overdue, but this book achieves neither. The examples given of synthetic biology are poorly described and tend to jump around (the very interesting chapter titles actually have no bearing on what is written and give the false impression that the book is structured). The authors spent very little time developing a cohesive philosophy about how our culture should approach this novel technology and instead resort to a "gee isn't that cool" kind of approach.

Overall, the book just seemed really fluffy. Many of the points made were repeated over and over without any depth. Instead, the authors fill pages by going into extensive detail about irrelevant matters, such as devoting several pages to describing the building where a convention on synthetic biology was hosted.

As a biology researcher, I can say this is definitely not for anyone with a background in science. Also, lay people looking for examples of synthetic biology should look elsewhere because this book does a poor job explaining things. Finally, those interested in the ethics of these issues will not find any interested arguments here on either side.
30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Brief Summary and Review 19 Oct. 2012
By A. D. Thibeault - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
*A full executive summary of this book is available here: An Executive Summary of George M. Church and Ed Regis's 'Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves'

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 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. In his new book 'Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves' George Church takes us through the developments that have occurred recently in the area of genomics, and also where these developments are likely to take us in the future.

When it comes to the current state of the field, manipulating DNA has already allowed us to produce organisms with new features, such as foodstuffs with novel properties, greater productivity and nutritional value, and resistance to pathogens. Over and above this, micro-species have been programmed to do such things as detect impurities in drinking water, produce electricity from waste-water (and purify the waste-water in the process), produce blood, produce vaccines, take pictures, and even store information. Indeed, the potential to use DNA as a store of information is already recognized to be the likely next leap in computer science, and is poised to initiate a revolution in informatics (just imagine storing all of the information in Wikipedia [in every language] on a chip the size of a blood cell, for a cost of $1 for 100,000 copies [p. 197]).

And, of course, the potential to manipulate genomes does not end with other species: it can also be extended to our own. Actualizing this potential is not far off, and includes such things as increasing intelligence, gaining full immunity to any pathogen (real or hypothetical), and dramatically extending the lifespan (if not removing mortality altogether).

In addition to manipulating genomes for the purpose of creating new biological features, the productive capacity of the genome can also be exploited to produce new substances and materials, such as chemicals, plastics, fuels, drugs, and vaccines. Successes in each of these areas has already been achieved, and the field is on the cusp of scaling-up these processes to an industrial scale. What's more, manipulating genes shows the promise of expanding the current repertoire of the building blocks of substances and materials to produce a whole new array thereof.

Church's book both is both invigorating and inspiring. However, it should be noted that the book is fairly technical throughout, and will only be easily-digested by a reader who already has a fairly deep understanding of the field. Having said that, an educated general reader equipped with a good amount of patience will have no trouble following the argument, and should learn a great deal in the process. A full executive summary of the book is available here: An Executive Summary of George M. Church and Ed Regis's 'Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves'
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Book! Fascinating, Fun and Frightening! 10 Oct. 2012
By AmazonJavaJunki - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I must agree with the above reviewer...this is an absolutely terrific book. Thanks to the superb review (and obvious enthusiasm) I opted to order this book on the spur of the moment while listening to a short interview with the author. Couldn't be more pleased. This book is absolutely fantastic. It's fun, it's downright frightening in some ways but it is fabulous across the board.

The author does a terrific job of making this somewhat complex topic accessible to the average reader. There are areas where I find myself wanting more information and a few areas of a bit less interest but overall, it presents a dramatic future view of the potential of synthetic biology including the promise and peril. Will it look exactly like this in the future...probably not but this gives great insight into the direction and trends rather than the specifics. Readers are likely to find at least a few things that are downright thrilling as well as some that are chilling to even contemplate. Clearly the legal limits haven't kept up with the emerging technology...an area that will need a lot of attention at some point in the future. Delightful book!
33 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Totally Amazing!!! 6 Oct. 2012
By Tarpitboss - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Regenesis, by George Church & Ed Regis is just published and... WOW! This read is super interesting, inspiring, fascinating and quite amazing. If there is a downside, the chemspeak is too dense in some places to make for easy, first time coherent reading BUT if you just power on straight ahead it all starts to sink in. We are heading on fast forward into territory that will change the future of humanity very fast indeed. Science fiction writers NEED to read this, write about the ideas to make them palatable for the film making community and general public so that the inevitable techno-shock waves are minimized. Share this one far and wide!
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Think things you haven't thought before 2 Dec. 2012
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
If you want to think things you've haven't thought before, read "Regenisis." I read the book straight through as I do with books I like a lot. Authors, Church and Regis form a good writing relationship. It seems like they might have equally participated in writing the book. The result is tight, readable prose, and understandable complex ideas, and most important to me, surprising ideas. I'll admit that where Church obviously wrote detailed explanations I didn't understand a lot of it, but Regis balanced out those spots. Regis is an awesome science writer. I imagine most readers who choose this book will understand the most detailed, most technical writing, however. Deciphering who wrote what most heavily was evident. Both wrote with passion and skill. I could not help but wonder where Church gets enough time to write a book like this, even with a co-writer. It's a book that is good from beginning to end, no soft spots in the middle.
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