Select your localized edition:

Close ×

More Ways to Connect

Discover one of our 28 local entrepreneurial communities »

Be the first to know as we launch in new countries and markets around the globe.

Interested in bringing MIT Technology Review to your local market?

MIT Technology ReviewMIT Technology Review - logo


Unsupported browser: Your browser does not meet modern web standards. See how it scores »

{ action.text }

Full Speed Ahead

Even as his lab-and his field-takes its first steps, Knight is looking to the future. He says he isn’t concerned about the ridiculously slow speed of today’s genetic approaches to biocomputing. He and other researchers started with DNA-based systems, Knight says, because genetic engineering is relatively well understood. “You start with the easy systems and move to the hard systems.”

And there are plenty of biological systems-including systems based on nerve cells, such as our own brains-that operate faster than it’s possible to turn genes on and off, Knight says. A neuron can respond to an external stimulus, for example, in a matter of milliseconds. The downside, says Knight, is that some of the faster biological mechanisms aren’t currently understood as well as genetic functions are, and so “are substantially more difficult to manipulate and mix and match.”

ill, the Molecular Sciences Institute’s Brent believes that today’s DNA-based biocomputer prototypes are steppingstones to computers based on neurochemistry. “Thirty years from now we will be using our knowledge of developmental neurobiology to grow appropriate circuits that will be made out of nerve cells and will process information like crazy,” Brent predicts. Meanwhile, pioneers like Knight, Collins, Gardner and Elowitz will continue to produce new devices unlike anything that ever came out of a microprocessor factory, and to lay the foundations for a new era of computing.

Who’s Who in Biocomputing Organization Key Researcher Focus Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Adam Arkin Genetic circuits and circuit addressing Boston University James J. Collins Genetic applets Rockefeller University Michael Elowitz Genetic circuits MIT Thomas F. Knight Amorphous computing

0 comments about this story. Start the discussion »

Tagged: Computing, Biomedicine

Reprints and Permissions | Send feedback to the editor

From the Archives


Introducing MIT Technology Review Insider.

Already a Magazine subscriber?

You're automatically an Insider. It's easy to activate or upgrade your account.

Activate Your Account

Become an Insider

It's the new way to subscribe. Get even more of the tech news, research, and discoveries you crave.

Sign Up

Learn More

Find out why MIT Technology Review Insider is for you and explore your options.

Show Me