Biology

Reading the books of Craig and Jim

Posted by: Bgiussani

ventergenome

A few days ago TED2005 speaker Craig Venter (watch his talk) announced that his lab has finished sequencing a single human’s genome — his own. At his old company, Celera, Venter worked on sequencing his genome and four other genomes all mixed together, creating an anonymous composite. He told Newsweek:

What we got this time was a diploid genome—a genome that includes both sets of chromosomes from both my parents. We were surprised at how much variation between individuals there was.
You mean there’s more genetic difference between one person and the next than we previously thought?
Absolutely. It’s quite comforting to me as an individualist that we’re not very close to being clones of one other. (…)
Why did you choose to decode your own genome?
It goes back to the government’s notion that genetics has to be secret and anonymous. But there’s really nothing anonymous with your genetic sequence—it’s the ultimate identifier. I thought it was showing proper leadership—to show that I don’t think there’s any risk in it. I don’t know if there’s any scientist in this field that wouldn’t want to have his own genome known.
(Read the full interview)

Nobel laureate (for co-discovering the double-helix structure of DNA), and fellow TED2005 speaker (watch his talk), James Watson couldn’t probably agree more: he also had his genome fully sequenced three months ago. “Project Jim”, as it was called, took 67 days of sequencing time and cost around USD 1 million. (More in this Newsweek story from June.)

The raw sequencing data of both Watson and Venter are publicly available in the US National Center for Biotechnology Information’s Trace Archive.