craigventer.jpgCraig Venter, the controversial entrepreneur who led the private-sector effort to sequence the human genome, is now seeking a patent for a “minimal genome,” a type of synthetic biology aimed at creating life forms, or living “machines.”

It may even be used for creating ethanol or other biofuels, something that several other companies are working on.

The US patent application (see the application here), filed by Hamilton Smith and colleagues at the J. Craig Venter Institute in Rockville, Maryland, claims ownership of a set of less than 400 genes required to sustain a free-living microbe. According to a New Scientist article:

The patent states that a synthetic genome bearing the genes could be inserted into a bacterium stripped of its own DNA. The idea is that this bacterium will become a “chassis” for synthetic biology, used to carry genetic circuits with novel functions. The patent also claims a specific application: producing ethanol or hydrogen for fuel.

There’s more coverage about Venter’s efforts here.

Synthetic fuel is something Amyris in Emeryville, Calif. backed by Kleiner Perkins and well-known investor Vinod Khosla is also trying to do, as we reported here. Khosla has backed LS9.com, which is doing something similar.

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