J. Craig Venter on British Research
  J. Craig Venter     Biography    
Recorded: 02 Mar 2006

It was a major international genome meeting by, I can’t remember if HUGO had been formed yet or was in their early stages. It was one of their first meetings. That’s where I announced and showed the results. There was lots of discussion there about it. We waited a while to publish it. In fact, because after we were getting ready to publish and somebody told me that Sydney Brenner was trying a similar approach. So I called Sydney and told him what we were doing and asked what he was doing. And I said, if you are really far along, I’m willing to hold up my paper so we can submit together. I even called the editor of Science and they said that they were willing to consider two papers together if they were really there.

And we waited months and months. Sydney was going to send us his data and nothing ever happened. Finally he told me that the British government wouldn’t allow him to send the data because he set things up as a commercial enterprise that was trying to get funding for the research and they were going to sell their cDNAs to pharmaceutical companies in Britain. So the British government didn’t want anybody else to see the data. So he couldn’t share the data with us. So he told me that we should definitely go ahead and publish on our own because he was not as far along as we were and it would be a long time before he would be able to publish. I’m assuming it was either ’89 or ’90. I would have to check that. That’s seeming like such ancient history now with all the new things we’re doing. But we published the paper; I think it was June of 1991 in Science.

J. Craig Venter, biologist and genomic research pioneer, was born in Salt Lake City, Utah in 1946. Following military service in Vietnam, he studied biochemistry as an undergraduate at the University of California, San Diego, where he also received a Ph.D. in Physiology and Pharmacology in 1975. He joined the faculty of the Medical School of State University of New York at Buffalo in 1976, joining its affiliated Roswell Park Cancer Institute in 1982 as Professor and Associate Chief Cancer Research Scientist. Beginning in 1982, and for the next decade, Dr. Venter headed various sections of NIH's National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

In 1992 he founded The Institute for Genomic Research (known as TIGR,) where he and colleagues became the first to successfully sequence the genome of an entire organism. Dr. Venter's Celera Genomics, founded in 1998, used a strategy known as the whole genome shotgun approach to compete with the publicly-funded Human Genome Project, which served to accelerate the mapping of the whole human genome by 2000. Dr. Venter's current venture, the J. Craig Venter Institute, was formed in 2006, from the merger of several predecessor enterprises. A leader in genomic research, the J. Craig Venter Institute announced in January 2008, the largest synthetically derived DNA structure, advancing it towards its goal of creating a living cell based on an entirely synthetic genome. In September 2007, the J. Craig Venter Institute announced the sequencing of Dr. Venter's genome, the first sequencing of an individual's genome.

Among Dr. Venter's numerous awards and honors are the American Academy of Microbiology Fellow (1997), the American Chemical Society, Division of Biochemical Technology David Perlman Memorial Lectureship Award (2000), and the U.S. State Department, Secretary's Open Forum Public Service Award (2001). Dr. Venter is a member of the American Society of Human Genetics, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Society of Microbiology, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.