NEW YORK — For a project born in a cauldron of controversy three years ago, the “GP-write” effort to design and build synthetic genomes — and, as long as researchers were going to all that trouble, improve on nature’s versions — has evolved from the early hopes, and even hubris, of 2016 into something a little less in your face. Judging by its just-ended annual meeting, GP (for “genome project”)-write is now less a “project,” into which some critics read nefarious intent, and more a warm, fuzzy “community.”

“We still have a vision of people coming together around a single project” analogous to the human genome project, said Jef Boeke, director of the Institute for Systems Genetics at New York University Langone Health and co-founder of GP-write. But “we have shifted from a top-down approach to more of a loose federation of programs. But that doesn’t rule out the possibility of returning to a centralized program in the future.”

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