Thomas Knight of MIT is a leader in synthetic biology. He is engineering novel life with DNA that performs electronic functions such as communication and placing them into bacteria.
Others have reengineered bacteria by total synthesis and testing of a refactored version of a bacteria They changed over 30% of the bacteria's genome but the bacteria could still replicate and perform many of its original functions and the new capabilities that they added.
Here are various project with Thomas Knight involvement
A survey of some robotic work. Tom Knight is mentioned. He is building microbial robots, where he splices standard "parts" into a DNA string, so that the normal RNA transcription mechanism effectively allows a program to have digital control over protein production inside the cell. His "robots," based on E. Coli as their chassis, can communicate with each other, move about, signal the outside world, and sense their environments.
Thomas Knight is making computers in cells
Thomas reinvention of life is featured in wired magazine in 2005
A 2004 summary of some synthetic biology work