Discover what makes us tick

The road to DNA synthesizing and near-perfect life quality

By Lumminary Team, 27 Aug, 2018

Pictogram of an astronaut in space suit looking at DNA strand surrounded by stars

The breakthrough of our lifetime

Life forms are made up of DNA, just like books are made up of letters. Your DNA is a blueprint, a code that defines how your body works, from your eye and hair colour to your metabolism and biological age. It is the one thing you can understand about yourself that can literally make you healthier, stronger, and happier.

DNA synthesising (printing) can enable us to dramatically improve the quality of human life, from eliminating diseases and delaying ageing, up to developing new organs that extend our memory or physical abilities.

We would also be able to shape the organisms around us and create entirely new life forms that change our world for the better. We could code plants to grow naturally in the shape of furniture or houses, so that we can shelter anyone, anywhere.

We could restore arid wastelands to rich fields by designing plants with longer roots, which gather water from deeper underground.

We could design bacteria that clean up our environment by consuming pollutants and producing nutrients or engineer crops for completely new fruits and vegetables so that we can have healthier, more diverse and flavourful diets.

We can use DNA as a programming language, to build new organisms that can improve our lives every day.

The very beginning - understanding DNA

To be able to improve how we and all other life forms function, we must first get the full picture of what we have to work with. What does every cell in our body do? What role does each protein have? It may sound like we ought to have known this already, but there is so much about the human body that we’ve yet to understand.

Therefore, DNA collection and analysis are key to getting started. So far, we have only analysed about 10 million human genomes. That’s because, in early 2000, the price of sequencing (reading) a single genome was $2.7 billion.

Since then, it had dropped to 14 million by 2006 and, currently, it is under $1,000. At Lumminary, we want to reduce the costs even more, until each and every one of us can afford to have their genome sequenced.

Our first step on this journey is to build a database with every existing genome in the world, whether it is human, plant, animal, bacterial or viral. We are building a platform that connects you and your DNA to thousands of services for personalised health and lifestyle insights, from diet and fitness plans, to optimum sleep cycles and ancestry.

That way, by sequencing your genome just once, you can constantly learn something new about yourself.

We will store your DNA completely for free, so it’s always readily available whenever you need it. Soon enough, checking your latest personal genetic insights will be as natural as checking your social media feed every morning.

Why do we need a DNA database?

It only takes about 2 ml of saliva, or a sample about half the size of your index finger to get a high-quality genome reading. Sequencing as many individuals as possible will help scientists understand why some people live longer, healthier lives than others, and it would also help spot diseases early on, so they can be prevented instead of treated. But, more importantly, it would also enable researchers to understand the role and effect of different nucleotide combinations so that DNA can be edited and printed in the lab.

On a personal level, having your DNA sequenced will help you get faster and more precise medical care. Imagine a meeting with your physician where they could instantly learn what conditions you are prone to and what medication is most likely to work.

To get a full understanding of the intricacies of DNA, we need to sequence every individual and every other life form, from household pets to viruses and bacteria. All living beings in the world are interconnected; we can get diseases from exposure to animals, insects, and bacteria, but we can also use them to find cures. That’s why, at Lumminary, we aim to help scientists understand not just how humans work, but how every life form in the world does. This is why we will store DNA that is either owned by consumers, or from research programs and institutions.

How do we build it?

The biggest obstacle to sequencing the full genome is cost. That’s why Lumminary is dedicated to building the fastest and most cost-effective DNA sequencing labs in the world. We will achieve this by fully automating the DNA reading and processing pipeline, as well as by leveraging economies of scale with our vendors, to the greatest extent possible. The Lumminary sequencing pipeline will eliminate errors and overhead, while decreasing oversight and cost, so that each individual can have their genome sequenced in days instead of weeks, at a fraction of the current cost.

DNA sequencing can give an overall view of a person’s health issues, allowing for faster diagnosis and treatment, reducing costs and saving time. Thus, it will also become sensible for healthcare institutions to provide this service upfront, as a way to save money down the line. Clinics will increase patient turnover and improve care quality, in a single swoop.

The resulting DNA database will then be accessible securely for anonymous medical research (upon proper consent), and you would also be able to allow your physician to access it, whenever you see fit.

How does synthesising become possible?

Because DNA is a code, we can recreate it in a laboratory. The methods are still in early stages, as technology is being created to work with elements as small as nucleotides. So far, we have managed to connect 1 million nucleotides, yet the human genome has 3.6 billion. There is still a long way to go, but we are moving faster and faster.

Other organisms have smaller genomes, though, and before engineering human DNA, we could be making bacteria that eat up air and water polluters, plants that generate more oxygen, or cells that can be used as new, organic materials.

At Lumminary, we plan to use all the resources, whether it is our funding, our team, or our equipment, to make DNA synthesising a practical reality as soon as possible. By building the fastest, best-priced genome sequencing service, a marketplace of genetic insights providers, as well as delivering access to the anonymous DNA platform, we expect to develop the capabilities and investments we need to advance DNA synthesising to the point of being able to create full-fledged organisms.

Within a few years, every research laboratory in the world could have a Lumminary device that can create DNA strands and enable scientists to print cells and small organisms, from plants to bacteria. Medical care, environmental care, and social development will all advance significantly with our capability to synthesise DNA.

A right, not a privilege

What does DNA synthesis mean for individual medical care in this scenario? As treatments get more and more personalised to fit our DNA, the production of medication will see a new era. Even visiting a doctor for diagnosis may no longer be necessary in most cases, if your DNA is already sequenced and accessible. Most medical care will be made possible remotely.

But how can that be possible when reading DNA is so complicated, and synthesising it even more so? It is hard to know which solutions technology will lead us to, but, just like a mainframe that used to be the size of a room, now fits in the palm of your hand, we can expect that reading and printing DNA will be easily done at home in the future.

Lumminary’s end goal and vision is to create a device that can sit on your desk and can easily print out medicine that accelerate your metabolism, enable your skin to repair faster, fix a potentially dangerous gene mutation, or even make cosmetic changes, such as your eye or hair colour. Illnesses caused by bacteria or viruses would become a thing of the past, as you could just use the Lumminary device to instantly print out medicine that disables nasty organisms by rewriting their DNA.

Delaying or stopping ageing, preventing and curing disease are critical matters, which should not be dependent on a person’s income. Therefore, we see this device as universally affordable and available as at-home medical care, as well as easy-to-use by individuals of any age or background.

How the world can be

As DNA synthesising progresses, we should be able to eliminate almost all diseases and conditions that weaken us. Humans will live longer and be able to develop new characteristics, like heightened senses or physical abilities, which so far have only been the stuff of fairy tales or comic books.

We will also be able to develop new organisms that can care for our planet and others – keep our oceans and our air clean, populate new territories, bring back lost species, create organisms that can survive in unfriendly conditions, on other planets.

DNA synthesis will be humanity’s biggest breakthrough and Lumminary is dedicated to making it possible not just in the labs, or for a few privileged individuals, but for everyone – to have a DNA synthesising device in every home, that can help you live longer and better, that can give us all a near-perfect quality of life.

New worlds

When we can create life instantly and almost anywhere, from a string of nucleotides, we will be able to use these new organisms to develop habitable environments. Imagine a device like the Curiosity rover on Mars, that would print bacteria to feed on carbon dioxide and generate oxygen, enabling a fast terraforming. We could then print more evolved organisms like animals and, eventually, even humans.

We wouldn’t have to transport every species to Mars to populate it, just nucleotides which we can then align in any way we choose, right from our office on Earth. This will be a key step in making the human race multi-planetary, potentially within our lifetime.

Ⓘ The ethics of synthesising DNA

At Lumminary, we are deeply aware of the ethical issues raised in regards to the creation of new life forms and engineering human DNA. While it is not the goal of this document to consider this matter in detail, we believe that the regulatory environment will evolve alongside technology to address these issues and protect all life forms from illegitimate access and use of DNA. We are committed to doing all we can to enable DNA research and synthesising in a safe, transparent way, for all of us.

In essence

It may sound like we’re trying to achieve the impossible, but each step on this journey is more probable by the day. Let’s summarise the steps to achieve this:

1. Create both the largest DNA repository and an exhaustive marketplace of genetic apps, accessible to anyone, anywhere.

2. Build the fastest and cost-effective sequencing platform, to enable every individual to get sequenced, and every researcher to sequence any living organism.

3. Enable third parties such as clinics, medical specialists, and researchers to access our platform easily, so they can offer outstanding healthcare and work towards discovering the fundamentals of our biology.

4. Build the world’s first DNA synthesiser that can print DNA in any length and make it affordable enough so that every lab and research facility can acquire it and accelerate their experiments, from years to hours.

5. Develop a consumer-ready version of this technology, so that there is one DNA synthesiser in every home.

If you have any questions about any of these steps, our vision, or the details on how we aim to put this into practice, or, simply, if you’d like to help us change the world, get in touch: [email protected]

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