The goal of engineered-from-scratch custom life-forms is still a long way over the event horizon, but bioengineering research is moving slowly and steadily in the right direction:

Many of the components of this minimal cell already work well together. Biotechnology companies routinely sell commercial kits to synthesise DNA, RNA or proteins to order in a test tube. But these kits only work for a few hours or days before the components are used up and the reaction grinds to a halt. To create a system that runs indefinitely, Forster and Church will also need to add a DNA molecule that encodes all 151 components, so that the system can make new ones as needed. Once they have combined this DNA with a starting set of components, they should in theory end up with a replicating, evolving – in short, living – system.

Good stuff, myriad potential medical uses, yaddah yaddah yaddah. But surely some long-run risks similar to those associated with self-replicating nanotech must be considered – green goo instead of grey, perhaps?