In an experiment with implications for bioterrorism and the worldwide campaign to eradicate polio, scientists have used poliovirus' widely known genetic sequence to synthesize that virus from the building blocks of DNA and a broth of other chemicals.
"It's the first time someone has started with a sequence on paper and put together the necessary ingredients chemically to create the virus specified," says Eckard Wimmer of the State University of New York at Stony Brook, who led the work. "We don't need any nature-formed template anymore. We just need the Internet to tell us the sequence of a virus. You can make pretty much any virus this way."
"Scientifically, the results are not surprising or astounding in any way," says virologist Vincent Racaniello of Columbia University. "The point here, of course, is that the DNA can be synthesized from the [genetic] sequence, and this could be done by any third-rate terrorist."