How do you learn to create organisms? You start small. Scientists at the J. Craig Venter Institute sequenced the genome of the bacterium Mycoplasma mycoides and coded it into a computer. After intensive study, they understood the genome well enough to create a synthetic version of the organism FROM SCRATCH. But why stop there? The scientists began tweaking the code, trying to see what the smallest possible sequence was to sustain life. After several versions, they succeeded in creating a synthetic organism with only 473 genes - the world's smallest known viable life-form.
Why is this important? Genes aren't necessarily unique to any one species. As an example, humans share 47% of their genes with fruit flies! Confidently understanding the genome of even a tiny organism could have huge implications for understanding our own, enabling untold medical break throughs.