This is not a problem that can be solved by computers. Ultimately, there is only one way to be sure what a particular bit of DNA does – you have to alter it in real, living cells to see what happens. But genetic engineering is very difficult and expensive.
At least, it used to be. Last month, two groups announced that they had performed a mind-boggling feat. They targeted and disabled nearly every one of our genes in cells growing in a dish. They didn't knock out all the genes in each cell at once, of course, but one gene at a time. That is, they individually modified a staggering 20,000 genes. "It's truly remarkable," says Eric Lander, director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, who led one of the studies. "This is transformative."
To put it...