J. Craig Venter was born in Salt Lake, Utah (USA), in 1946. Starting his college studies at a community college in California, he proceeded to obtain a BA in Biochemistry and Ph.D. in Physiology and Pharmacology from the University of California at San Diego. In 1976, he started teaching at the Colleges of Medicine and Dentistry at the State University of New York (SUNY) where he rose to rank of research professor in 1984. Between 1984-1992, he joined the National Institutes of Health (NIH) where he directed Receptor Biochemistry and Molecular Biology laboratories at NIH in Bethesda, Maryland. In 1992, he left NIH to the private sector. He founded the Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR), Celera Genomics Corporation and the J. Craig Venter Institute. Celera Genomics ran a parallel, private version of the Human Genome Project. Venter was dismissed from Celera in 2002 after a longstanding conflict with the main investor. He is currently the President of J. Craig Venter Institute which carries out research in synthetic biology.
Professor J. Craig Venter is a world authority on genomic sequencing. He was the first to put high throughput automated DNA sequencing into practice, and the first to develop the highly efficient expressed sequence tags (EST) method for developing whole genomic random sequencing strategy for rapidly decoding entire organismal genomes. The EST has fundamentally
altered the process of gene discovery worldwide and greatly accelerated the discovery of human genes. Using the whole genome shotgun, Venter sequenced the first genome of a free-living organism, the bacterium Haemophilus influenzae. This landmark achievement was soon followed by the sequencing of entire genomes of other organisms, and was key to the subsequent success in sequencing the human genome. Using DNA from 5 human volunteers, including himself, Venter
generated the human genome sequence. In 2000, he and rival scientist Francis Collins of the NIH, along with then U.S. President Bill Clinton, made the stunning announcement of the mapping of the human genome; Venter and Collins then shared the Biography of the Year award. In 2005, Venter cofounded Synthetic Genomics, a firm working towards using genetically modified microorganisms to produce ethanol and hydrogen as alternative fuels. He led the Global Ocean Sampling Expedition to help assess marine microbial diversity. In 2007, Venter published his complete diploid sequence, unveilling, for the first time, the 6 billion letter genome of a single individual. Recently, Venter succeeded in building the first “cell” from synthetic genome.
Professor Venter published hundreds of scientific papers. Beside the King Faisal International Prize for Science, he received the U.S. National Medal of Science in addition to several other prizes and medals from academic, industrial and biotechnology groups, as well honorary doctorate degrees and invited lectureships. He was the subject of articles in several magazines as well as documentary television series. In 2007 and again in 2008, he was listed by Time magazine among the 100 most influential people in the world. In 2010, The New Statesman ranked 14th in its list of “The World’s 50 Most Influential Figures in 2010.”
Dr. Venter, has been awarded the prize, for his novel techniques for the rapid identification of genes and the fast and economical sequencing of entire genomes. These approaches have already revealed the complete genetic make-up of several.