While an employee of the NIH, Venter used a technique for rapidly identifying all of the mRNA strands present in a cell; and he began to use it to identify genes which are expressed in the human brain. The short cDNA sequence fragments discovered by this method are called expressed sequence tags, or ESTs. The NIH Office of Technology Transfer and Venter decided to use these ESTs in an attempt to patent the genes they identified based on their studies of mRNA expression in the human brain. When Venter disclosed this strategy during a Congressional hearing, a firestorm of controversy erupted. The NIH later stopped the effort and abandoned the patent applications it had filed, following public outcry.
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 rejected by the Human Genome Project however, since some geneticists felt it would not be accurate enough for a genome as complicated as that of humans, that it would be logistically more difficult, and that it would cost significantly more.
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 U.S. President Bill Clinton, and UK 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.
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 could not find funding in the public sector.
J. Craig Venter Institute in Rockville, Maryland
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 partially synthetic species 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 virusgenome 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
1. Code table for entire alphabet with punctuations 2. Names of 46 contributing scientists 3. Three quotations 4. The secret email address for the cell.
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. This genome, dubbed HuRef by Levy and others, was a landmark accomplishment.
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 NCBIand 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.
On March 4, 2014 Venter and co-founders Peter Diamandis and Robert Hariri announced the formation of Human Longevity, Inc., a company focused on extending the healthy, "high performance", human lifespan. At the time of the announcement the company had already raised $70 million in venture financing, which was expected to last 18 months. Venter is the chairman and chief executive officer (CEO). The company said that it plans to sequence 40,000 genomes per year, with an initial focus on cancer genomes. Human Longevity's mission is to extend healthy human lifespan by the use of high-resolution big data diagnostics from genomics, metabolomics, microbiomics, and proteomics, and the use of stem cell therapy.
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. On May 16, 2004, Venter gave the commencement speech at Boston University.
In a 2007 interview with New Scientistwhen asked "Assuming you can make synthetic bacteria, what will you do with them?", Venter replied: "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." He was on the 2007 Time 100 most influential people in the world list made by Time magazine. In 2007 he also received the Golden Eurydice Award for contributions to biophilosophy.
On December 4, 2007, Venter gave the Dimbleby lecture for the BBC in London. In February 2008, he gave a speech about his current work at the TED conference. Venter delivered the 2008 convocation speech for Faculty of Science honours and specialization students at the University of Alberta. A transcription of the speech is available here. 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. On November 21, 2010 Steve Kroft profiled Venter and his research on 60 Minutes. 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. Venter is mentioned, in the season finale of the first season of the science fiction series Orphan Black, a joint production of Space and BBC America. In the episode, Venter is referenced as patenting an organism and encoding a message in the genome of that organism, an act repeated by the character of Aldous Leekie (played by Matt Frewer). While the clones fear that this renders them as nothing more than property, in reality, in the United States and Canada, where the show primarily takes place, such a patent became unenforceable due to constitutional provisions and laws against owning human beings.
* 2001: Venter received the Biotechnology Heritage Award with Francis Collins. * 2007: On May 10, 2007, Venter was awarded an honorary doctorate from Arizona State University, and on October 24 of the same year, he received an honorary doctorate from Imperial College London. * 2008: Double Helix Medal from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory * 2008: Kistler Prize from Foundation For the Future for genome research * 2008: ENI award for Research & Environment * 2008: National Medal of Science from President Obama * 2010: On May 8, 2010, Venter received an honorary doctor of science degree from Clarkson University for his work on the human genome. * 2011: On April 21, 2011, Venter received the 2011 Benjamin Rush Medal from William & Mary School of Law. * 2011: Dickson Prize in Medicine * 2015: On April 14, 2015, Venter received the Leeuwenhoek Med
Venter is an ISI highly cited researcher and has authored over 200 publications in scientific journals.
* 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. C.; Adams, M.; Myers, E.; Li, P.; Mural, R.; Sutton, G.; Smith, H.; Yandell, M.; Evans, C.; Holt, R. A.; Gocayne, J. D.; Amanatides, P.; Ballew, R. M.; Huson, D. H.; Wortman, J. R.; Zhang, Q.; Kodira, C. D.; Zheng, X. H.; Chen, L.; Skupski, M.; Subramanian, G.; Thomas, P. D.; Zhang, J.; Gabor Miklos, G. L.; Nelson, C.; Broder, S.; Clark, A. G.; Nadeau, J.; McKusick, V. A.; Zinder, N. (2001). "The Sequence of the Human Genome". Science 291 (5507): 1304–1351. Bibcode:2001Sci...291.1304V. doi:10.1126/science.1058040. PMID 11181995. * Venter, J. C.; Remington, K.; Heidelberg, J.; Halpern, A.; Rusch, D.; Eisen, J.; Wu, D.; Paulsen, I.; Nelson, K.; Nelson, W.; Fouts, D. E.; Levy, S.; Knap, A. H.; Lomas, M. W.; Nealson, K.; White, O.; Peterson, J.; Hoffman, J.; Parsons, R.; Baden-Tillson, H.; Pfannkoch, C.; Rogers, Y. H.; Smith, H. O. (2004). "Environmental Genome Shotgun Sequencing of the Sargasso Sea". 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 IIGlobal 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 IIGlobal 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. editor Roger Highfield * Venter, J. Craig (October 17, 2013). Life at the Speed of Light: From the Double Helix to the Dawn of Digital Life. New York, New York: Viking Adult. ISBN 9780670025404. OCLC 834432832. editor Roger Highfield
Venter is the author of two books, the first of which was ostensibly an autobiography titled A Life Decoded. Venter's second book was titled Life at the Speed of Light in which he announced his theory that this is the generation in which there appears to be a dovetailing of the two previously diverse fields of science represented by computer programming and the genetic programming of life by DNA sequencing. He was applauded for his position on this by futurist Ray Kurzweil.