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These studies have identified, with various degrees of sophistication, the existence of cultural differences as a primary determinant of failure.Alternative explanations focus upon a transaction cost approach, emphasising opportunism and the danger of cheating in such strategic alliances.The real question is whether it’s worth the effort and cost. They argue that various benefits might stem from writing a human genome, such as improved resistance to viruses, cancer and prion diseases, and production of stem-cell lines for regenerative medicine.
The common view in Huxley’s day was that life was a question of chemical composition, and Huxley believed there was a primal living matter he called protoplasm. striking uniformity of material composition in living matter,’ he said.If the HGP–Write project is successful (it hopes to launch this year with 0 million support from private, public and philanthropic sources), it could be interpreted as the synthesis of human life. To invest that much meaning and significance in the genome is a fallacy.Life is a process, not a molecule, and it needs much more than a strand of DNA.It’s tempting to portray this as a ‘chemical synthesis of a human being’ – which connects Church’s ambitions to the hubris most famously explored in Mary Shelley’s (Aldous was Thomas’s grandson).With such emotive associations, any hint of secrecy easily arouses suspicions of mad scientists plotting something diabolical.We need this perspective to approach the proposal by George Church of Harvard University, US, and colleagues for a ‘Human Genome Project–Write’ (HGP–Write); the original Human Genome Project being HGP–Read.Church aims to build a complete human genome from scratch, using the clever synthetic chemistry now routinely used to make much shorter stretches of DNA with specified sequences.The main challenge, Church and colleagues say, is to reduce the current cost of synthesising and testing very long DNA sequences (0.1 to 100 billion base pairs; the human genome has 3 billion) by a factor of 1000.It has been almost unremarked so far that this is really a question of chemistry.In the 1850s Huxley claimed that this protoplasm was the organic slime in which tiny marine organisms seemed to be embedded on the sea floor, made up of only carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and hydrogen.This stuff turned out to be an artifact of reactions involving the alcohol used to preserve specimens, but Huxley’s idea that the properties of living matter ‘result from the nature and disposition of its molecules’ has become the orthodox view of a material conception of life.