John Craig Venter (born October 14, 1946, Salt Lake City) is an American biologist and businessman. He began his academic career at a community college, College of San Mateo (California), later enlisting in the navy and serving a tour of duty during the Vietnam War. On returning, he received his bachelor's degree in biochemistry in 1972, and his Ph.D. in physiology and pharmacology in 1975, both from the University of California, San Diego. After working at the State University of New York at Buffalo, he joined the National Institutes of Health in 1984.
While at NIH, Venter developed a technique for rapidly identifying all of the mRNAs present in a cell. The short cDNA sequence fragments discovered by this method are called Expressed Tag Sequences, or ESTs, and represented one of the first methods to identify the transcriptome of a cell. Venter, in a controversial court case, tried to patent these gene fragments, but lost the case.
He was the former president, founder, and chief scientific officer at Celera Genomics, which became famous for running a Human Genome Project on its own for commercial purposes, using shotgun sequencing technology in 1999. DNA from 10 individuals was used by Celera to generate the sequence of the human genome; one of the 10 individuals used in this project was Venter.
Venter founded The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR) in 1992. Venter is currently the president of the J. Craig Venter Institute (formed in 2004 through the merger of the Center for the Advancement of Genomics, the Institute for Biological Energy Alternatives, and the J. Craig Venter Science Foundation Joint Technology Center).
Venter has been the subject of several articles, notably in Wired and The Economist in December 2004. As of 2004 he is currently circumnavigating the globe on board Sorcerer II, collecting microorganisms from seawater and sequencing their genomes. His research is attempting to identify thousands of new genes and new organisms.
Last updated: 05-14-2005 14:20:56