Q&A: Creating Life in the Lab

David Deamer, an artificial-life scientist at UC Santa Cruz, spoke with NEWSWEEK's Jeneen Interlandi about his research.

How far are we from creating a multi cellular organism?
Quite a ways. But the race is definitely on to be the first lab to create life from nonlife. Someone will cross that finish line within the next decade or so.

What is the value of such an undertaking?
If we can manufacture bacterial cells, we can use them as molecular machines to produce insulin and other useful molecules.

Are there environmental applications?
Researchers are also designing bacteria that produce hydrogen gas. If they succeed, we will have an alternative, renewable fuel source beyond compare.

What are the risks?
They are negligible. It would take 3 billion years for anything in the lab to evolve into some sort of threat.