Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Craig Venter

Best known as the guy whose private company, Celera, single-handedly beattied the international government-funded Human Genome Project in the race to sequence human DNA, Craig Venter stopped by our office on Friday to talk to us and promote his new book A Life Decoded: My Genome: My Life.

His new company focuses on synthetic biology, creating new life forms that (among other things) may revolutionize the way alternative fuels like ethanol are manufactured.

He's not a big fan of government research projects ability to do anything of breakthrough value.  In the name of preventing waste, the need to get approval from a broad spectrum of people for every project means that unproven ideas almost never get funded. He thinks the trend is headed toward more private funding of research for that reason, because the VC model of lots of highly-speculative bets works better in science just like it does in business.

My favorite emerging industry, consumer biology, has had some exciting news lately:  at least two new companies are now offering full DNA testing for normal people.  23andme is a Google company with 500K SNPs, and DeCODE offers 1M SNPs.  (SNPs are the parts of your DNA that differ from everybody else, and looking at them is the easiest way to see what your risk factors are for various diseases).  Yes, I'm signing up and I'll let you know when I get the results.

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