DNA printers may someday help drug manufacturers develop cures for cancer, but the technology has some worried that it may be used for more nefarious, or dumb, uses, NPR Shots reports.
"Do we want anybody, including potential terrorists, to be able to create entirely novel life forms — new creatures?" Marcy Darnovsky, the executive director of the Center of Genetics and Society, asks. "Do we want the teenager next door to be creating Godzilla in the bathtub?"
DNA printers are generally being used by drug firms to manufacture new drugs and the crop industry to engineer better crops. According to Austen Heinz, CEO of Cambrian Genomics, some of the firm's customers may be interested in using synthetic DNA to make proteins that "attacks a cancer cell with some kind of killer payload."
But he also tells NPR that he imagines a day when mass-produced DNA can be used to genetically engineer people or to create new organisms. "I think some people will find the process of designing and making organisms just fun, in and of itself," he says.
But comments like that worry Darnovsky. Just as troubling is the prospect that synthetically engineered plants could run amok. And she finds the idea of genetically engineered humans "extremely disturbing."
Austen says that Cambrian Genomics doesn't sell its products to just anyone, though, and that DNA printing technology has potentially huge benefits to society. The company, he added, is scaling up its operations in anticipation of a growing demand for synthetic DNA.