Archive for August 2011
Sometimes I get invitations that are just too intriguing to pass up. Last month I was lucky enough to visit the Whitechapel Gallery in London to hear a talk by Dr Christian Bök (left), an experimental Canadian poet who’s been working with bacteria to get them to do something pretty special.
Last year I was sitting on the science floor of the British Library (procrastinating) when I read that Craig Venter had encoded a line from James Joyce’s novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man into the genome of his ‘synthetic lifeform’: “To live, to err, to fall, to triumph, to recreate life out of life.” I thought this was pretty neat.
Dr Bök has taken this idea and run with it. He explained how he has been engineering a bacterium to be the storage vessel for a poem but, at the same time, be a poet itself. The project is called the ‘Xenotext’. Confused? Stick with me, and I’ll do my best to explain it.
We hear a lot in the news about multidrug-resistant (MDR) bacteria but not very much about the efforts made to tackle these so-called ‘superbugs’.
At the recent ‘Antibiotics 2011’ meeting hosted by the Royal Society of Chemistry, I heard some interesting talks from senior scientists working for the pharmaceutical giants GlaxoSmithKline and Bayer.