I thought we'd just sequence the genome once and that would be sufficient for most things in people's lifetimes. Now we're seeing how changeable and adaptable it is, which is why we're surviving and evolving as a species.
How we understand our own selves and how we work with our DNA software has implications that will affect everything from vaccine development to new approaches to antibiotics, new sources of food, new sources of chemicals, even potentially new sources of energy.
My early years were hardly a model of focus, discipline, and direction. No one who met me as a teenager could have imagined my going into research and making important discoveries. No one could have predicted the arc of my career.
We have 200 trillion cells, and the outcome of each of them is almost 100 percent genetically determined. And that's what our experiment with the first synthetic genome proves, at least in the case of really simple bacteria. It's the interactions of all those separate genetic units that give us the physiology that we see.
Carole Lartigue led the effort to actually transplant a bacterial chromosome from one bacteria to another.
Mathematicians have been hiding and writing messages in the genetic code for a long time, but it's clear they were mathematicians and not biologists because, if you write long messages with the code that the mathematicians developed, it would more than likely lead to new proteins being synthesized with unknown functions.
The trouble is the field of science, medicine, universities, biotech companies - you name it - have been so splintered, layers, sub-divided, hacked that people can spend their entire career studying one tiny little cog of life.
The fact that I have a risk genetically for Alzheimer's and blindness is not great news. But the reality is that any one of us will have dozens of these risks, and what we have to learn is how to deal with them.
Even with seemingly simple things like eye color, you can't tell from my genetic code whether I have blue eyes or not. So it's naive to think that complex human behaviors, like risk-seeking, are driven by changes in one or two genes.
People think genes are an absolute cause of traits. But the notion that the genome is the blueprint for humanity is a very bad metaphor. If you think we're hard-wired and deterministic, there should indeed be a lot more genes.
The Anthropocentic Age - the first age in which humankind is the dominant species on the planet - cuts both ways: it is up to us to destroy or save the planet. We certainly have the ability.
Organisms in the ocean provide over 40 percent of the oxygen we breathe, and they're the major sink for capturing all the carbon dioxide we constantly release into the atmosphere.
I have this idea of trying to catalog all the genes on the planet.
We can create new ways to create clean water.
We have trouble feeding, providing fresh, clean water, medicines, fuel for the six and a half billion. It's going to be a stretch to do it for nine.
People equate patents with secrecy, that secrecy is what patents were designed to overcome. That's why the formula for Coca-Cola was never patented. They kept it as a trade secret, and they've outlasted patent laws by 80 years or more.
Preventative medicine has to be the direction we go in. For example, if colon cancer is detected early - because a person knew he had a genetic risk and was having frequent exams - the surgery is relatively inexpensive and average survival is far greater than 10 years.
We know virtually all of the genes known to mammals. We do not know all of the combinations.
In the past, geneticists have looked at so-called disease genes, but a lot of people have changes in their genes and don't get these diseases. There have to be other parts of physiology and genetics that compensate.
The chemistry from compounds in the environment is orders of magnitude more complex than our best chemists can produce.