Jack Szostak is on a mission. The Harvard HHMI investigator and colleagues around the world have set out to create artificial cells. According to one analysis, ten of the 12 elements that, taken together, would bring life to artificial biology have been accomplished. The quest continues apace, as described in our cover story Is This Life?, by leading science writer Jack Lucentini. The definition of synthetic biology, however, may be as elusive as the definition of life itself. Just ask MIT's Drew Endy and Craig Venter, who both contribute to our package. Bioethicist Glenn McGee weighs in too, in the first of his regular columns.

Welcome to the inaugural monthly issue of The Scientist, magazine of the life sciences. Our feature on synthetic biology is just one example of the big-picture pieces in our new format that will explore topics in ways that you haven't seen anywhere...

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