John Craig Venter is an American biologist and entrepreneur, most famous for his role in being one of the first to sequence the human genome and for his role in creating the first cell with a synthetic genome in 2010. Venter founded Celera Genomics, The Institute for Genomic Research and the J. Craig Venter Institute, now working at the latter to create synthetic biological organisms and to document genetic diversity in the world's oceans. 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."
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
- Craig Venter's Wikipedia page
- J. Craig Venter Institute
- Craig Venter's biography
- Wired article about Craig Venter
- Sorcerer II Expedition
- Synthetic Genomics
- The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR)
- HuRef Genome Browser
Craig Venter Quotes
If anything, we've learned that we don't think this data's going to be as deterministic as was previously thought, ... There is even more need for this legislation until science catches up with our collective ignorance.
Just think if we can harness the immense power of the billions of years of evolution, together with these new tools of synthetic genomics, that perhaps we have the opportunity to wean ourselves from burning ancient hydrocarbons for energy and transportation, all the while adding more CO2 to the atmosphere. I predict that carbon dioxide will become the future raw material for almost every human endeavor, from energy to chemicals to food.
We said that once we had finished sequencing the genome we would make it available to the scientific community for free, ... And we will be doing that on Monday morning at 10am.
Many of you here are familiar with existing agriculture systems, but they’re incredibly inefficient, particularly when we try to use them for alternate energy production. So if we were to try and replace transportation fuels in the U.S. with corn-based fuels, it would require a facility three times the size of our country. If we could do this with synthetic algae, it would require a facility only one-third the size of the state of New York.
Trying to run your life over again is like trying to run the giant experiment of evolution over again. You can run the same experiment a thousand times and never get the same outcome, the same answer.
It is my belief that the basic knowledge that we're providing to the world will have a profound impact on the human condition and the treatments for disease and our view of our place on the biological continuum.