|J. Craig Venter|
Venter in 2007
October 14, 1946 |
Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S.
|Institutions||State University of New York at Buffalo
National Institutes of Health
J. Craig Venter Institute
|Alma mater||University of California, San Diego|
Shotgun approach to genome sequencing
|Notable awards||Kistler Prize (2008), ENI award (2008), National Medal of Science (2008)|
|J. Craig Venter Institute|
John Craig Venter (born October 14, 1946) is an American biologist and entrepreneur. He is known for being one of the first to sequence the human genome and for creating the first cell with a synthetic genome. Venter founded Celera Genomics, The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR) and the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI), and is now working at JCVI to create synthetic biological organisms. He was listed on Time magazine's 2007 and 2008 Time 100 list of the most influential people in the world. In 2010, the British magazine New Statesman listed Craig Venter at 14th in the list of "The World's 50 Most Influential Figures 2010". He is a member of the USA Science and Engineering Festival's Advisory Board.
Early life and education 
Venter was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, the son of Elizabeth and John Venter. In his youth, he did not take his education seriously, preferring to spend his time on the water in boats or surfing. According to his biography, A Life Decoded, he was said to never be a terribly engaged student, having Cs and Ds on his eighth-grade report cards.
Although he was against the Vietnam War, Venter was drafted and enlisted in the United States Navy where he worked in the intensive-care ward of a field hospital. While in Vietnam, he attempted to commit suicide by swimming out to sea, but changed his mind more than a mile out. Being confronted with wounded, maimed, and dying soldiers on a daily basis instilled in him a desire to study medicine — although he later switched to biomedical research.
Venter graduated from Mills High School and began his college career at a community college, College of San Mateo in California. He received his B.S. degree in biochemistry in 1972, and his Ph.D. degree in physiology and pharmacology in 1975, both from the University of California, San Diego. At UCSD, he studied under biochemist Nathan O. Kaplan. and married former Ph.D. candidate Barbara Rae. After working as an associate professor, and later as full professor, at the State University of New York at Buffalo, he joined the National Institutes of Health in 1984.
In Buffalo, he divorced Dr. Rae-Venter and married his student, Claire M. Fraser, remaining married to her until 2005. In late 2008 he married Heather Kowalski. They live in La Jolla in San Diego, California where Venter gut-renovated a $6 million home.
Scientific discoveries 
While at the NIH, Venter learned of a technique for rapidly identifying all of the mRNAs present in a cell and began to use it to identify human brain genes. The short cDNA sequence fragments discovered by this method are called expressed sequence tags (ESTs), a name coined by Anthony Kerlavage at The Institute for Genomic Research. The NIH initially led an effort to patent these gene fragments, in which Venter coincidentally and controversially became involved.[improper synthesis?] The NIH later withdrew the patent applications, following public outcry. Subsequent court cases declared that ESTs were not directly patentable.
Human Genome Project 
Venter was passionate about the power of genomics to radically transform healthcare. Venter believed that shotgun sequencing was the fastest and most effective way to get useful human genome data. The method was controversial, however, since some geneticists felt it would not be accurate enough for a genome as complicated as that of humans.[not in citation given] Frustrated with what Venter viewed as the slow pace of progress in the Human Genome project, and unable to get funds for his ideas, he sought funding from the private sector to fund Celera Genomics. The goal of the company was to sequence the entire human genome and release it into the public domain for non-commercial use in much less time and for much less cost than the public human genome project. The company planned to profit from their work by creating a value-added database of genomic data to which users could subscribe for a fee. The goal consequently put pressure on the public genome program and spurred several groups to redouble their efforts to produce the full sequence. DNA from five demographically different individuals was used by Celera to generate the sequence of the human genome; one of the individuals was Venter himself. In 2000, Venter and Francis Collins of the National Institutes of Health and U.S. Public Genome Project jointly made the announcement of the mapping of the human genome, a full three years ahead of the expected end of the Public Genome Program. The announcement was made along with US President Bill Clinton, and U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair. Venter and Collins thus shared an award for "Biography of the Year" from A&E Network. On the 15 February 2001, the Human Genome Project consortium published the first Human Genome in the journal Nature, and was followed, one day later, by a Celera publication in Science. Despite some claims that shotgun sequencing was in some ways less accurate than the clone-by-clone method chosen by the Human Genome Project, the technique became widely accepted by the scientific community and is still the de facto standard used today.
Although Celera was originally set to sequence a composite of DNA samples, partway through the sequencing, Venter switched the samples for his own DNA.
After contributing to the Human Genome, and its release into the public domain, Venter was fired by Celera in early 2002. According to his biography, Venter was ready to leave Celera, and was fired due to conflict with the main investor, Tony White, that had existed since day one of the project. Venter writes that his main goal was always to accelerate science and thereby discovery, and he only sought help from the corporate world when he couldn't find funding in the public sector.
Global Ocean Sampling Expedition 
The Global Ocean Sampling Expedition (GOS) is an ocean exploration genome project with the goal of assessing the genetic diversity in marine microbial communities and to understand their role in nature's fundamental processes. Begun as a Sargasso Sea pilot sampling project in August 2003, Craig Venter announced the full Expedition on 4 March 2004. The project, which used Craig Venter's personal yacht, Sorcerer II, started in Halifax, Canada, circumnavigated the globe and returned to the U.S. in January 2006.
Synthetic genomics 
Venter is currently the president of the J. Craig Venter Institute, which conducts research in synthetic biology. In June 2005, he co-founded Synthetic Genomics, a firm dedicated to using modified microorganisms to produce clean fuels and biochemicals. In July 2009, ExxonMobil announced a $600 million collaboration with Synthetic Genomics to research and develop next-generation biofuels.
Venter is seeking to patent the first life form created by humanity, possibly to be named Mycoplasma laboratorium. There is speculation that this line of research could lead to producing bacteria that have been engineered to perform specific reactions, for example, produce fuels, make medicines, combat global warming, and so on.
In May 2010, a team of scientists led by Venter became the first to successfully create what was described as "synthetic life". This was done by synthesizing a very long DNA molecule containing an entire bacterium genome, and introducing this into another cell, analogous to the accomplishment of Eckard Wimmer's group, who synthesized and ligated an RNA virus genome and "booted" it in cell lysate. The single-celled organism contains four "watermarks" written into its DNA to identify it as synthetic and to help trace its descendants. The watermarks include
- Code table for entire alphabet with punctuations
- Names of 46 contributing scientists
- Three quotations
- The web address for the cell.
Individual human genome 
On September 4, 2007, a team led by Sam Levy published the first complete (six-billion-letter) genome of an individual human—Venter's own DNA sequence. Some of the sequences in Venter's genome are associated with wet earwax, increased risk of antisocial behavior, Alzheimer's and cardiovascular diseases. This publication was especially interesting since it contained a diploid instead of a haploid genome and shows promise for personalized medicine via genotyping.[original research?] This genome, dubbed HuRef by Levy and others, was a landmark accomplishment and as of mid-2010 is probably the highest quality personal genome sequence yet completed.
The Human Reference Genome Browser is a web application for the navigation and analysis of Venter's recently published genome. The HuRef database consists of approximately 32 million DNA reads sequenced using microfluidic Sanger sequencing, assembled into 4,528 scaffolds and 4.1 million DNA variations identified by genome analysis. These variants include single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), block substitutions, short and large indels, and structural variations like insertions, deletions, inversions and copy number changes.
The browser enables scientists to navigate the HuRef genome assembly and sequence variations, and to compare it with the NCBI human build 36 assembly in the context of the NCBI and Ensembl annotations. The browser provides a comparative view between NCBI and HuRef consensus sequences, the sequence multi-alignment of the HuRef assembly, Ensembl and dbSNP annotations, HuRef variants, and the underlying variant evidence and functional analysis. The interface also represents the haplotype blocks from which diploid genome sequence can be inferred and the relation of variants to gene annotations. The display of variants and gene annotations are linked to external public resources including dbSNP, Ensembl, Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man (OMIM) and Gene Ontology (GO).
Users can search the HuRef genome using HUGO gene names, Ensembl and dbSNP identifiers, HuRef contig or scaffold locations, or NCBI chromosome locations. Users can then easily and quickly browse any genomic region via the simple and intuitive pan and zoom controls; furthermore, data relevant to specific loci can be exported for further analysis.
In popular culture 
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Venter has been the subject of several biography books, several scientific documentary books, TV documentaries, numerous magazine articles, and many speeches.
Venter has been the subject of articles in several magazines, including Wired, The Economist, Australian science magazine Cosmos, and The Atlantic. Additionally, he was featured on The Colbert Report on both February 27, 2007, and October 30, 2007.
Venter appeared in the "Evolution" episode of the documentary television series Understanding.
Over the next 20 years, synthetic genomics is going to become the standard for making anything. The chemical industry will depend on it. Hopefully, a large part of the energy industry will depend on it. We really need to find an alternative to taking carbon out of the ground, burning it, and putting it into the atmosphere. That is the single biggest contribution I could make.
Venter was featured in Time Magazine's "The Top 10 Everything of 2008" article. Number three in 2008's Top 10 Scientific Discoveries was a piece outlining his work stitching together the 582,000 base pairs necessary to invent the genetic information for a whole new bacterium.
For an episode aired on July 27, 2009, Venter was interviewed on his boat by BBC One for the first episode of TV show Bang Goes the Theory.
On May 20, 2010, Venter announced the creation of first self-replicating semi-synthetic bacterial cell.
In the June 2011 issue of Men's Journal, Venter was featured as the "Survival Skills" celebrity of the month. He shared various anecdotes, and advice, including stories of his time in Vietnam, as well as mentioning a bout with melanoma upon his back, which subsequently resulted in "giving a pound of flesh" to surgery.
Awards and nominations 
Double Helix Medal
- 2008: CSHL Double Helix Medal Honoree
- Kistler Prize (2008)
- ENI Award (2008)
- National Medal of Science (2008)
- Fleischmann, Robert D.; Adams, Mark D.; White, Owen; Clayton, Rebecca; . . . Venter, J. Craig (July 28, 1995). "Whole-Genome Random Sequencing and Assembly of Haemophilus influenzae Rd". Science (Washington, DC: American Association for the Advancement of Science) 269 (5223): 496–512. Bibcode:1995Sci...269..496F. doi:10.1126/science.7542800. PMID 7542800.
- Tomb, Jean-F.; White, Owen; Kerlavage, Anthony R.; Clayton, Rebecca A.; Sutton, Granger G.; Fleischmann, Robert D.; . . . Venter, J. Craig (August 7, 1997). "The complete genome sequence of the gastric pathogen Helicobacter pylori". Nature (London, England: Nature Publishing Group) 388 (6642): 539–47. doi:10.1038/41483. PMID 9252185.
- Adams, Mark D.; Celniker, Susan E.; Holt, Robert A.; Evans, Cheryl A.; Goccayne, Jeannine A.; Amanatides, Peter G.; . . . Venter, J. Craig (March 24, 2000). "The genome sequence of Drosophila melanogaster". Science (Washington, DC: American Association for the Advancement of Science) 287 (5461): 2185–95. Bibcode:2000Sci...287.2185.. doi:10.1126/science.287.5461.2185. PMID 10731132.
- Venter, J. Craig (February 16, 2001). "The Sequence of the Human Genome". Science (Washington, DC: American Association for the Advancement of Science) 291 (5507): 1304–51. Bibcode:2001Sci...291.1304V. doi:10.1126/science.1058040. ISSN 0036-8075. PMID 11181995.
- Venter, J. Craig; Remington, Karin; Heidelberg, John F.; Halpern, Aaron L.; Rusch, Doug; Eisen, Jonathan A.; Wu, Dongying; Paulsen, Ian et al. (April 2, 2004). "Environmental Genome Shotgun Sequencing of the Sargasso Sea". Science (Washington, DC: American Association for the Advancement of Science) 304 (5667): 66–74. Bibcode:2004Sci...304...66V. doi:10.1126/science.1093857. PMID 15001713.
- Rusch, Donald B.; Halpern, Aaron L.; Sutton, Granger; Heidelberg, Karla B.; Williamson, Shannon; Yooseph, Shibu; Wu, Dongying; . . . Venter, J. Craig (March 13, 2007). "The Sorcerer II Global Ocean Sampling expedition: Northwest Atlantic through Eastern Tropical Pacific". PLoS Biology (Public Library of Science) 5 (3): 398–431. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0050077. PMC 1821060. PMID 17355176.
- Yooseph, Shibu; Sutton, Granger; Rusch, Donald B.; Halpern, Aaron L.; Williamson, Shannon; Remington, Karin; Eisen, Jonathan A.; . . . Venter, J. Craig (March 13, 2007). "The Sorcerer II Global Ocean Sampling Expedition: Expanding the Universe of Protein Families". PLoS Biology (Public Library of Science) 5 (3): 432–466. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0050016. PMC 1821046. PMID 17355171.
- Venter, J. Craig (October 18, 2007). A Life Decoded: My Genome: My Life. New York, New York: Viking Adult. ISBN 0-670-06358-4. OCLC 165048736.
Further reading 
- Ewing-Duncan, David (2006). Masterminds: Genius, DNA, and the Quest to Rewrite Life. New York, New York: Harper Perennial. ISBN 978-0-00-716184-3.
- Shreeve, James (2004). The Genome War: How Craig Venter Tried to Capture the Code of Life and Save the World. New York, New York: Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 0-375-40629-8.
- Sulston, John; Ferry, Georgina (2002). The Common Thread: A Story of Science, Politics, Ethics and the Human Genome. Washington, D.C.: Joseph Henry Press. ISBN 0-309-08409-1.
See also 
- Artificial gene synthesis
- Eckard Wimmer
- Full genome sequencing
- Genetic testing
- Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters
- Personal genomics
- Predictive medicine
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- Rae-Venter Law Group
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- ""Time Magazine Dubs Montgomery County "DNA Alley"" (Press release). Montgomery County, Maryland Government. December 19, 2000. Retrieved January 30, 2007.
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- Olson, M.V. (2002). "The Human Genome Project: A Player's Perspective". Journal of Molecular Biology 319 (4): 931–942. doi:10.1016/S0022-2836(02)00333-9. PMID 12079320.
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- Regalo, Antonio (July 24, 2005). "Maverick biologist at work on next goal: creating life". Seattle Times.
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- Howell, Katie (July 14, 2009). "Exxon Sinks $600M Into Algae-Based Biofuels in Major Strategy Shift". NYTimes.com (New York Times).
- Regalado, Antonio (June 29, 2005). "Biologist Venter aims to create life from scratch". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
- Highfield, Roger (June 8, 2007). "Man-made microbe 'to create endless biofuel'". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved April 30, 2010.
- Gibson, DG; Glass, JI; Lartigue, C; Noskov, VN; Chuang, RY; Algire, MA; Benders, GA; Montague, MG et al. (2010). "Creation of a Bacterial Cell Controlled by a Chemically Synthesized Genome". Science (Science (journal)) 329 (5987): 52–6. Bibcode:2010Sci...329...52G. doi:10.1126/science.1190719. PMID 20488990.
- Swaby, Rachel (May 20, 2010). "Scientists Create First Self-Replicating Synthetic Life". Wired.
- Wimmer, Eckard, Mueller, Steffen, Tumpey, Terrence M, Taubenberger, Jeffery K (December 2009). "Synthetic viruses: a new opportunity to understand and prevent viral disease". Nature Biotechnology 27 (12): 1163–72. doi:10.1038/nbt.1593. PMC 2819212. PMID 20010599.
- Using Arc to decode Venter's secret DNA watermark by Ken Shirriff
- Sample, Ian (May 20, 2010). "Craig Venter creates synthetic life form". The Guardian (London).
- Levy S, Sutton G, Ng PC, Feuk L, Halpern AL et al. (2007). "The Diploid Genome Sequence of an Individual Human". PLoS Biology 5 (10): e254. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0050254. PMC 1964779. PMID 17803354.
- Omim - Ear Wax, Wet/Dry
- Venter, J.C. (2007). A Life Decoded. New York: Viking. ISBN 978-0-670-06358-1.
- Shreeve, James. "Craig Venter's Epic Voyage to Redefine the Origin of the Species," Wired, August 2004. Accessed June 7, 2007.
- "The Journey of the Sorcerer", The Economist, December 4, 2004.
- First individual person's genome decoded - Cosmos Magazine. September 4, 2007.
- Geneticists on verge of creating artificial life - Cosmos Magazine. October 8, 2007.
- Douthat, Ross. "The God of Small Things," The Atlantic, Jan/Feb 2007.
- Warren, Jessica. April 30: Genome scientist to speak at Commencement, The Daily Free Press, April 28, 2004. Accessed August 2, 2008.
- Aldhous, Peter (2007). "Interview: DNA's messengers". New Scientist (2626): 57.
- Aufrett, Sarah. "ASU Celebrates Spring Graduates", ASU Insight, May 11, 2007. Accessed June 7, 2007.
- "Honorary degrees awarded to Browne, Venter and Rausing", Imperial College, October 24, 2007. Accessed May 21, 2010.
- TED | Talks | Craig Venter: On the verge of creating synthetic life (video)
- Brown, M.: "Genomics leader accepts U of A honorary degree", "UofA ExpressNews"; retrieved on June 7, 2009.
- "The Top 10 Everything Of 2008". Time. November 3, 2008. Retrieved April 30, 2010.
- Welch-Donahue, Jaime. "Benjamin Rush Scholars to Honor Dr. J. Craig Venter on April 21". Retrieved 21 April 2011.
- Will Cockrell (May 20, 2011). "Survival Skills: Craig Venter". Men's Journal.
- "Venter, J. Craig" (restricted access). ISIHighlyCited.com. August 19, 2003. Retrieved October 17, 2009.
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Craig Venter|
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- J. Craig Venter Institute
- Sorcerer II Expedition
- Synthetic Genomics
- The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR)
- HuRef Genome Browser
- Craig Venter collected news and commentary at The New York Times
- Cracking the code to life, The Guardian, October 8, 2007
- Craig Venter interview, Wired Science, December 2007 (video)
- Video of interview/discussion with Craig Venter by Carl Zimmer on Bloggingheads.tv
- Craig Venter: A voyage of DNA, genes and the sea – TED (Technology Entertainment Design) conference (video)
- Webcast of Venter talk 'Genomics: From humans to the environment' at The James Martin 21st Century School
- The Richard Dimbleby Lecture 2007 – Dr. J. Craig Venter – A DNA Driven World
- A short course on synthetic genomics. Edge Master Class 2009
- "J. Craig Venter: Designing Life". 60 Minutes. 2010-11-21. CBS. http://www.cbs.com/primetime/60_minutes/.