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The Genome War: How Craig Venter Tried to…

The Genome War: How Craig Venter Tried to Capture the Code of Life and… (2004)

by James Shreeve

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The BEST book about the Humane Genome Project and Celera (and I have read them all...). ( )
  hnn | Mar 7, 2008 |
Craig Venter instigated one of the biggest scientific races in modern times by challenging the government funded Human Genome Project to arrive at a privately funded sequencing of the human genome using an untested technique. Shreeve does an excellent job capturing the intensity and excitement of the scientific, academic, business and intellectual property complexity of the human genome. Venter gave Shreeve almost unlimited access to the activities of his company, Celera, during the historic achievement.

Recently, a graduate student at the University of Oregon shared his excitement in unlocking the secrets of the cellular processes involved in the differentiation of a fruit fly stem cell into its retinal cell. I had no idea how far genomic science had come and how interesting the interaction of the “wet bench€? research is when combined with the power of bioinformatics of the “dry benchâ€? (computer simulation) to find sequences of cellular processes. The wet bench is used to explore the interactions of single genes and their effects on proteins and a single cellular process. As more is learned, it is put into the computer to understand the complex interaction of multiple genes, multiple proteins and thousands of cellular processes. Most of this new found capability arose out of the human genome project race.

At the heart of the book, the author captures the tension between business research, academic research, intellectual property rights, and the freedom to share scientific information. Shreeve personalizes this tension through the battles between Venter and Francis Collins of the NIH for the academic glory and the battles of Venter and his boss Tony White of Perkin Elmer. These same issues are fought daily not just in biology but also in areas like the Open Source Software Movement and the patenting of software.

This book is a great read capturing an important piece of scientific history and a great lay person’s introduction to the many aspects of genomic sciences. Since the book was published, Venter has turned his sites on another impossible problem – helping the world use less energy. His latest company, Synthetic Genomics, is heeding the call of Tom Friedman to find ways to make the US more energy efficient. Venter is working on creating new organisms which will “eatâ€? pollutants and produce energy products like ethanol and hydrogen. ( )
  swaltersky | Jan 22, 2006 |
tries to portray it as fast paced and exciting. biology unfortunately is not. very good with the analogies, although light on the technical information. ( )
  mynameisvinn | Jan 10, 2006 |
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Dach iss erkenne, was die Welt

Im Innersten zusammenhält

I'll learn what holds the world together

There, at its inmost core.

-- Goethe, Faust
To Walton Shreeve and Phyllis Heidenreich Shreeve (1922-2000)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375406298, Hardcover)

The long-awaited story of the science, the business, the politics, the intrigue behind the scenes of the most ferocious competition in the history of modern science—the race to map the human genome.
On May 10, 1998, biologist Craig Venter, director of the Institute for Genomic Research, announced that he was forming a private company that within three years would unravel the complete genetic code of human life—seven years before the projected finish of the U.S. government’s Human Genome Project. Venter hoped that by decoding the genome ahead of schedule, he would speed up the pace of biomedical research and save the lives of thousands of people. He also hoped to become very famous and very rich. Calling his company Celera (from the Latin for “speed”), he assembled a small group of scientists in an empty building in Rockville, Maryland, and set to work.
At the same time, the leaders of the government program, under the direction of Francis Collins, head of the National Human Genome Research Institute at the National Institutes of Health, began to mobilize an unexpectedly unified effort to beat Venter to the prize—knowledge that had the potential to revolutionize medicine and society.

The stage was set for one of the most thrilling—and important—dramas in the history of science. The Genome War is the definitive account of that drama—the race for the greatest prize biology has had to offer, told by a writer with exclusive access to Venter’s operation from start to finish. It is also the story of how one man’s ambition created a scientific Camelot where, for a moment, it seemed that the competing interests of pure science and commercial profit might be gloriously reconciled—and the national repercussions that resulted when that dream went awry.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:31 -0400)

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"Contemporary scientific research is perched on a paradox: scientists produce research which is freely shared with all, but private companies can come in and make a killing with it. Once the human genome-- the unbelievably complex structure of human DNA-- was mapped, this milestone could enable mankind to find cures to diseases like cancer and Alzheimer's. The National Institute of Health was determined to map the genome and share the results. But when biologist Craig Venter formed a private company to map the genome first and profit from it, a race was on. Suddenly the halls of science were vibrating with nerve-jangling excitement. It was a bitter race, and a personal one, but no matter who won, the frontiers of science would forever be expanded" --From container.… (more)

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