Tuesday, September 04, 2007


I'm gonna clone me my very own Venter.

Maverick U.S. geneticist Craig Venter has published the ultimate autobiography, laying bare his personal six-billion-letter genome for all to see.

The genome, released yesterday and uploaded on to a public gene database, will enable anyone to examine the genetic recipe that makes Mr. Venter unique.

It provides genetic clues to everything from his flamboyant personality to whether he has wet or dry ear wax and is prone to heart disease and skin cancer.

While some might see publishing one's genome as evidence of an over-sized ego, one of Canada's leading geneticists says Mr. Venter has done a valuable and "unselfish" service.

Dr. Stephen Scherer, who heads the team at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children that helped decode and interpret Mr. Venter's genome, says the "historic" publication will do much to further genetics and the field of personalized genomics.

Mr. Venter drove the race to publish the first human genome six years ago, which is a mosaic of DNA from anonymous donors. Today's version, sequenced by Mr. Venter's current team at the J. Craig Venter Institute in Maryland in collaboration with Toronto and California geneticists, is the first complete individual genome published.

It provides a much-needed "reference" genome that can be used for comparative purposes when trying to understand the millions of tiny genetic variations between individuals. Until now, researchers have been restricted to the "mosaic" published in 2001, says Dr. Scherer. He likens having the new genome to being able to comparison shop when looking for a new vehicle. "When you buy a car you'd never go to just one store, you go to two to compare not only the product, but the price," he said.

Dr. Scherer says researchers have been "really limited" until now and will benefit by having not only Mr. Venter's genome, but those of several other prominent individuals now lining up to have their genomes read.

Astrophysicist Stephen Hawking, Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, and television's Larry King are among the notables who have reportedly signed up to have their genomes sequenced by companies that say they can do the job for $100,000.
Well, heck, I wouldn't mind a Hawking/Allen/King hybrid to go with my Venter either. Sure, he'd be nerdy, but he might be smart enough to finally invent that personal jetpack and one-stage-to-orbit spacecraft that we've all been waiting for.

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