Saved by Science: The Hope and Promise of Synthetic Biology

Saved by Science: The Hope and Promise of Synthetic Biology

by Mark J. Poznansky
Saved by Science: The Hope and Promise of Synthetic Biology

Saved by Science: The Hope and Promise of Synthetic Biology

by Mark J. Poznansky


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With all the advances in science in the last century, why are there still so many infectious diseases? Why haven’t we found cures for difficult cancers? Why hasn’t any major headway been made in the treatment of mental illness? Why did 36 million people die of hunger in 2019? How do we expect to feed the additional two to three billion people expected by 2050? And how do we intend to stop, and not only that but reverse, global warming and the climate crisis?

In Saved by Science, scientist Mark Poznansky examines the many crises facing humanity while encouraging us with the promise of an emerging solution: synthetic biology. This is the science of building simple organisms, or “biological apps,” to make manufacturing greener, energy production more sustainable, agriculture more robust, and medicine more powerful and precise. Synthetic biology is the marriage of the digital revolution with a revolution in biology and genomics; some have even called it “the fourth industrial revolution.”

Accessible and informative, Saved by Science provides readers with hope for the future if we trust in and support the future of science.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781770416031
Publisher: ECW Press
Publication date: 09/22/2020
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 1,160,982
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Dr. Mark J. Poznansky, CM, OOnt, is a research scientist, science administrator, and science blogger. He is the past president and CEO of the Ontario Genomics Institute (OGI) and the founder of G2G Consulting Inc. He is a member of the Order of Canada, a member of the Order of Ontario, and was CEO, president, and scientific director of Robarts Research Institute. He lives in Toronto, Ontario.

Read an Excerpt

The future of mankind is far from secure. I am among many who believe that humanity is in crisis; in particular, our personal health, the security of our food supply and the health of our environment all face potentially catastrophic challenges. Our health faces many unresolved dangers in the areas of cancer, infectious diseases and mental health. Rapid population growth and the many environmental challenges in our agricultural systems raise questions about how we will feed the world in the year 2050. Global warming and climate change are threatening our environments, and pollution is poisoning our land, lakes, rivers and oceans.

While these challenges are monumental and the future may appear bleak, there is hope. Imagine being able to:

  • Identify specific genetic mutations of a whole range of cancers and to develop personalized and specific therapies (i.e., cures), even at the patient’s bedside.
  • Modify the genetic mutation that predisposes people to suffer from schizophrenia, bipolar disease, severe depression or addictive disorders and to offer effective cures.
  • Respond to any viral outbreak (such as Ebola, Zika, AIDS, a nasty flu or COVID-19) with an effective vaccine produced in only days or even hours.
  • Grow nutritious, inexpensive, high-protein foods in the widest range of possible conditions of temperature, sunlight, water and fertility . . . or even on Mars.
  • Create real meat without killing animals or to produce real milk without milking cows.
  • Provide plants with nitrogen from the air instead of having to mine or chemically synthesize expensive nitrogen fertilizers.
  • Reverse global warming by removing carbon from the atmosphere and using it as an energy source or material for advanced manufacturing.
  • Use microbes to clean up lakes and rivers, removing lead, mercury and other toxic materials and returning our waterways to pristine condition.
  • Design specific microbes to clean up toxic-waste dumps, abandoned mines and industrial sites, and even to clean up disastrous oil spills.

A mere six or seven years ago, these imaginings would have been purely the stuff of science fiction. Today, we have realistic expectations that they’ll happen — and that they’ll be brought to market within a decade, maybe even less. These are the products of what some call the “fourth industrial revolution,” a marriage of computer science and newfound knowledge in biology, particularly genomics. This book is about that revolution, a new field of science called synthetic biology and the hope and promise that it offers for the future of mankind.

Table of Contents

Preface xi

Chapter 1 Intersection 1

Chapter 2 Lessons from Biology 9

Chapter 3 Man-Made 26

Chapter 4 A New Era 37

Chapter 5 In Serious Condition 51

Chapter 6 Hunger 84

Chapter 7 Polluted 118

Chapter 8 Implementation 144

Appendix A A Genetics Primer 165

Appendix B Glossary 174

Acknowledgments 182

References and Additional Reading 184

Index 193

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