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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Brief Summary and Review
*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...
Published on October 19, 2012 by A. D. Thibeault

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62 of 70 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars could have been one chapter
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...
Published on January 23, 2013 by John


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62 of 70 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars could have been one chapter, January 23, 2013
By 
John "Flyn" (London, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves (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.
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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Brief Summary and Review, October 19, 2012
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This review is from: Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves (Hardcover)
*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'
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Book! Fascinating, Fun and Frightening!, October 10, 2012
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This review is from: Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves (Hardcover)
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!
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32 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Totally Amazing!!!, October 5, 2012
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This review is from: Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves (Hardcover)
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!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Think things you haven't thought before, December 2, 2012
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This review is from: Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves (Hardcover)
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Shameless name-dropping, August 6, 2014
I have no doubt that Dr. Church knows what he is talking about. I'm certain that his credentials are legitimate and impressive. I am sure he is a more than capable researcher who brainstorms interesting ideas and has the technical skill to test them out.

That being said, I didn't know name-dropping was a common practice in science. He mentions someone by name at every opportunity, sometimes spending a sentence or paragraph lauding their accomplishments. On that note, he doesn't have a problem lauding his own accomplishments. I understand that you have probably done some amazing things, as have your colleagues, but I didn't want to read an autobiography.

Second, he (Dr. Church) spends a lot of time talking about things that are beyond the future of current research. I get that he wants to see the impossible made possible, but there is a transition period in there somewhere that cannot be skipped. That is what I thought this book was about: transitioning from current genetic understanding to some future where we essentially program humans with vaccines, etc. What I instead got was a "wish list" of things the author (and his oft-mentioned colleagues) would like to see happen. Dream big, but please bring the bulk of your (scientific) book down to Earth.

Finally, the author readily discusses his numerous business attempts; more surprisingly, his business attempts generally end in failure; ludicrously, he spends a whole chapter talking about it (as well as disconnected paragraphs throughout the whole book). To top it off, he shamelessly explains how one company (I forget the name, much like the rest of this book) he started dissolved into a second company, which further dissolved into a third company; he jokingly mentioned that the third iteration was so new it had, as of writing, just launched a website.

This book was more a professional autobiography and diary than anything else.
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14 of 20 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Pointless superficial rumbling, March 8, 2013
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This review is from: Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves (Hardcover)
The book is full of superficial disconnected anecdotes. The authors provide no deep insights, no real explanation of core technological principles, no science front-line update, and no key questions to be answered. Paragraphs are disconnected from one another, with no substantial development of ideas and knowledge. At some point I started skipping 5 pages at a time looking for interesting material. It actually did not disturb the reading, since there is no build-up from one chapter to the next, or even not from one page to the next. The writing style is also poor - here is an example from page 206 (simply where I am now at the book): "Negative aspects of chemistry include pollution, drug abuse, and the problems posed by semiconductors, computer viruses, identity theft, privacy invasion, cyberwar, and bioterror." - what's the point of these "negative aspects of chemistry" in book about genetic engineering? Bottom line, one of the worst popular science books that I ever read.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Compelling ideas, burdensome execution, May 16, 2013
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This review is from: Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves (Hardcover)
While the book is sprinkled with provocative ideas and decent storytelling, the author gets mired in too many calculations and numbers. This distracts from the power of his arguments rather than reinforcing it. I hold advanced degrees in engineering and education and read many popular press scientific books as a diversion from the rigorous stuff I deal with at work. But even so, i found this book suffered from a dry style and pointless, repetitive, numbing cases. I read the whole book on a cross-country flight to Washington state and will probably never pick it up again.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Regenesis, February 23, 2013
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If you have a background in biology, or if you are new to the field, I believe this work will
provide the stimulus to want to learn as much as you are capable of understanding. The author
leaves nothing to chance, explaining by way of clear language and by examples the material he
provides.
The book is so well written that you are left with learning the material and appreciating the author's
knowledge of the field.
If you buy the book you will be better informed.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars New biology, January 22, 2013
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This book is an overview of recent advances in synthetic biology, that is creating organisms through the direct manipulation of DNA, rather than selective breeding. Doctors Regis and Church recap the history of human attempts to manipulate organisms, from early selective breeding to Mendel' s experiments to modern genomics.
They go even further, describing current attempts to encode information onto DNA, including the book I am reviewing.
If you are interested in the future of genomics, this is a good place to start.
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Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves
Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves by George M. Church (Hardcover - October 2, 2012)
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