Craig Venter: At the Helm of the Genetic Revolution

By Perry, Patrick | The Saturday Evening Post, January 2000 | Go to article overview

Craig Venter: At the Helm of the Genetic Revolution


Perry, Patrick, The Saturday Evening Post


In the galaxy of genetic discovery, Dr. Craig Venter is a bright star whose pioneering spirit has set the pace in the race to reveal mankind's genetic makeup.

As we enter a new millennium, a revolution in science and medicine is taking place. We are on the doorstep to the future of biology and medicine. And genetics holds the key. Today, leading geneticists from around the world are scrambling to decode the entire human genome--the blueprint for humanity. In the process, scientists are writing the first chapter in a new human understanding of the process of life.

In the final laps of the race to reveal humanity's genetic blueprint, the iconoclastic gene hunter Dr. Craig Venter remains firmly in the lead.

Dr. Venter has been challenging the scientific establishment and rattling the world of molecular science since the early 1990s. While Venter's candor may not endear him to his contemporaries, they cannot argue with his unparalleled achievements.

Dr. Venter is an unlikely success story in the hallowed halls of science. After graduating from high school, he pursued the life of a beach bum, surfing and sailing until drafted into the Navy and sent to Vietnam. At 21, Venter was stationed at the Naval Hospital in Danang, Vietnam. Tending to the critically wounded, he learned a lesson that shaped his future outlook--life is short and every day counts. Returning from Vietnam, Venter enrolled in medical school to become a doctor and work in Third World hospitals. But after finishing his coursework, he realized that his passion lay in medical research.

The young scientist joined the National Institutes of Health in 1984, working on gene expression in the central nervous system. But during the early days of the molecular revolution, discovering genes was a painstaking process, typically taking researchers years to locate and decode a single gene.

Enter computer technology. While reading the journal Nature, Dr. Venter learned about a new machine that could decode genes rapidly and automatically. He met with the machine's creator, later introducing the first automatic gene sequencer, or decoder, to the NIH in 1986. But when he couldn't get the necessary funding for his project, Dr. Venter left the NIH to join the private sector in 1992, founding The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR) to continue his ambitious study.

Armed with even faster equipment, Dr. Venter completed gene maps with unprecedented speed. Using a rapid method of decoding gene sequences at TIGR, Dr. Venter and fellow scientists discovered and published one half of all the human genes that have been sequenced. Later, Dr. Venter left TIGR to form Celera in a joint partnership with biotechnology firm Perkins-Elmer.

One of the most cited biologists in the world, Dr. Venter has set the pace for human genome sequencing. The Post spoke with him in his office in Rockville, Maryland.

Q: Much is written about genetics and the genome project, but its implications are hard to grasp. Recently, for example, you announced the completion of the genetic makeup of the fruit fly, or drosophila. Why is this accomplishment considered important ?

A: We are genetically closely related to fruit flies. Basically, every human disease gene that has been characterized has a counterpart in fruit flies. The fruit fly is also the first organism that has been completely genetically mapped with a central nervous system. Mapping this DNA sequence opens the door to a better understanding of the human genome.

Q: The media have depicted the challenge to sequence the human genome, for good or for bad, as a race between private enterprise and government-funded projects. Your challenge certainly stepped up the process at the government and private levels. Is your prediction that you will have assembled the entire human genome by 2001 still on target?

A: It's at least on target and possibly ahead of that target. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Craig Venter: At the Helm of the Genetic Revolution
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.