Advances in CRISPR, gene editing helping ‘clean tech’ get off ground after years of failure

Researchers at Lygos used genetically modified yeast to convert dangerous cyanide into a crystallized version of malonic acid, as shown above. Credit: Jason Henry for The New York Times

A decade ago, a group of biologists, venture capitalists and computer whizzes…hoped to overturn polluting industries with microorganisms cheerily excreting industrial chemicals through the miracle of reprogramming nature’s genetic code. [Unfortunately, the] idea lost billions of dollars.

Now, a few clean tech companies are aiming for a comeback. And the big idea has not changed much: Create cheap, safe and natural materials for fuel, cosmetics and other goods….

This time around, they believe they have better tools for editing genetic codes, measuring results and automating how chemicals are produced at a large scale. They have also set their sights lower, for now targeting just a few chemicals, not remaking how the world powers cars.

It is natural to look at genetic engineering and think of H. G. Wells’s Dr. Moreau…At the same time, altering genes is what mankind has done for millenniums, breeding wolves into Chihuahuas and cobs of loose-podded maize into big, uniform ears of corn.

What is different, and troubling to some, are the tools and the time scale. By directly altering the genetic makeup of plants and animals, the creations happen a thousand or more times as fast.

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis. Read full, original post: Clean Tech Rises Again, Retooling Nature for Industrial Use