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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on March 23, 2010
Book was review of recent adventures in open-source and small scale biotechnology. If you haven't been reading the scholarly literature on devices and breakthroughs, I can think of no better crash course.

From Keasling's entire engineered metabolic pathways to iGEM to Amyris's new fuel producing bacteria, the author has an excellent and informed perspective on the breakthroughs that are worth thinking about.

The author also describes in detail the difficult morass of patent and copyright law concerning biotechnology. His description of CAMBIA's "walled garden" is better than any I have read, even in books exclusively about open-source biotechnology. (Although there is currently only one, Biobazaar).

His description of garage biotechnology is sparse, mainly due to the above morass, and it would have been nice to have more details on the LavaAmp, this author's most recent work, which is a very cheap, reusable PCR device.

This book goes by fast, and is a must read for anyone looking to start or invest in a small biotechnology company, or anyone who wants to do it themselves.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on March 15, 2010
Excellent survey of recent developments AND a thorough argument that openness contributes more to our safety from future attacks and accidents than trying to restrict knowledge and materials could. Not quite up to date, as he wrote in the Afterword, "everyone in the field is running so fast that it is impossible to keep up", but more so than any other book I have found. Most of the detailed discussion of the actual technology is up to about 2 years ago. A good discussion of the benefits and problems of patents as they apply to biotechnology (and to any field where many patents may apply to a single product (patent thickets)). Surprisingly readable for the amount of information included.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 28, 2012
Biology Is Technology is written like a quality research paper. It covers the current challenges with delivering bioengineering/biotechnology solutions and what is being done to meet those challenges. This is a no BS book. Carlson goes into the meat right off the bat, and you are not likely to be disappointed with any of the chapters by the time you finish. If you are an investor, entrepreneur, executive, or are just curious, this book needs to be on your bookshelf.

Table of Contents:

1. What Is Biology?
2. Building with Biological Parts
3. Learning to Fly (or Yeast, Geese, and 747s)
4. The Second Coming of Synthetic Biology
5. A Future History of Biological Engineering
6. A Pace of Change in Biological Technologies
7. The International Genetically Engineered Machines Competition
8. Reprogramming Cells and Building Genomes
9. The Promise and Peril of Biological Technologies
10. The Sources of Inspiration and the Effects of Existing and Proposed Regulations
11. Laying the Foundations for a Bioeconomy
12. Of Straitjackets and Springboards for Innovation
13. Open-Source Biology, or Open Biology?
14. What Makes a Revolution?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on July 19, 2014
I selected this book for a small group that is dipping its toes into synthetic biology--or at least trying to get its mind around it. It looked good enough, but as we have used it, its defects have become increasingly obvious: It is out of date (lots of economic data from 2006-2008), idiosyncratically written, and badly organized. We had to go to another couple of books and the Internet to get everyone up to speed on the fundamentals of DNA. Although Carlson does give an example of direct modification of DNA and covers the early days of iGEM, there is too much missing and too much soapbox talk. Unfortunately, he is not a lucid writer. With all of that said, the book does cover many relevant topics, such as the biosafety and patent issues that accompany this fascinating field. Carlson attempts to cover the economic aspects but his coverage is sorely dated. I hope that someone else will put it all together for general readers in the near future--hello, iGem graduates with a flair for writing! And when he or she creates the Kindle version, real page numbers and a live index would be very appreciated.
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on April 5, 2014
Unusually well written, in that it clearly summarizes just-enough but all-you-need of the scientific basis to support the larger discussion. The larger discussion covers a wide range of business, economic and societal impacts as well. The author understands the organizational and group dynamics of very different communities, ranging from government regulators, academics, medical, pharma, and agricultural businesses as well as the rising bio-hacking community. It's very difficult to gist a complex topic like this down to the essentials. Carlson successfully does so over an immense conceptual range ... an impressive feat of communication.

At the end of each chapter I thought that the rest couldn't be as good, and was wrong each time. The logical progression was great, leading to clear questions, recommendations and suggestions for the way forward for various stakeholders. My copy is a mass of yellow highlighting and marginal notes. Very well done.

Recommended for anyone who was comfortable with any basic science course, especially organizational decision-makers. The text is very accessible and self contained.
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on May 29, 2015
A nearly perfect primer on synthetic biology. I would give it five stars, except:
- it is a little repetitive .. Could be a tad shorter or cover more ground. For example, it would be interesting to see a new edition that covers some of the issues surrounding the difficulty of getting reproducible result (and the corresponding emergence of software and hardware that addresses this)
- it is a little dated .. The field moves so quickly that many significant, recent developments are missing.

Still .. Well worth reading. Rob Carlson writes well and has a rare gift for putting the emerging field of synthetic biology in a proper, well defended, well articulated technological, economic and social context.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on April 9, 2012
This book is engaging, timely, and well-written. Carlson provides a succinct analysis of why biotechnology isn't moving as quickly as its advocates hope, but an equally powerful refutation of the doomsayers who claim new technology is something to be feared. Highly recommended for anyone starting out in biotechnology, but experts may also find Carlson's examples useful in crafting their own explanations.
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2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on August 8, 2012
As a biologist, I was hoping for a book that explained the biology behind these innovations, but this book explained nothing. There are a few figures that attempt to cover some of this, but I doubt anyone could understand them without a biology background. And if one already has the biology background, these figures aren't much use.

The book lists a lot of facts and figures about how much of our economy is moving in this direction, and it mentions a number of recent innovations without getting into any depth as to how they are done. Maybe the author figures most people interested in this topic aren't smart enough to understand the science? Or perhaps explaining the science requires too much knowledge and skill from the writer.
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