Christina Agapakis: "Biology is the most important part of our lives"

The US researcher Christina Agapakis programmes bacteria and cells like computer chips. The Trend Day speaker explains in an interview with "Migros-Magazin", how this works and what the results are.
20 March, 2023 by
Christina Agapakis: "Biology is the most important part of our lives"
GDI Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute

"Migros-Magazin": What is the process [of your work]?"Migros-Magazin": What is the process [of your work]?

Christina Agapakis: For this, we treat DNA like a code that can be programmed. Every living being has DNA. It is the hard drive, so to speak, on which all important hereditary information is stored. We look for certain information and programme it. In this project, I took DNA from a preserved highland hibiscus, then found the scent and recreated it.

So you are doing genetic engineering.

Yes. However, the mindset of synthetic biology is different from previous approaches: We combine biology and engineering. So we want to develop tools for programming cells and bacteria that are easier to work with.

What role will the programmed bacteria play in the future?

They can be used in the perfume industry, for example. Because for fragrances we use plants, some of which are threatened with extinction. Programmed bacteria can sustainably replace such an ingredient and thus save plant species. But programmed bacteria could also one day replace everything we produce from petroleum.

What is already possible today?

At the moment we are working on fertiliser. Billions of people can be fed thanks to nitrogen fertiliser. But its production causes enormous damage to the environment. We want to programme bacteria that produce the nitrogen for the plants directly in the earth – without any environmental pollution.

You can read the whole interview in the "Migros Magazin" (from page 45 and in German).

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