More innovations likely from genomics expert Venter

May 7, 2012

J. Craig Venter, PhD, founder, chairman, and president of the J. Craig Venter Institute, is perhaps most famous for his contributions to genomic research, including the sequencing of the first human genome, published in 2001. However, the scientist-entrepreneur and his teams continue to investigate new ideas that are likely to affect health, medicine, food, energy use, and untold other aspects of daily life. Dr. Venter was the featured speaker during the ARVO/Alcon keynote session Sunday evening.

Fort Lauderdale, FL-J. Craig Venter, PhD, founder, chairman, and president of the J. Craig Venter Institute, is perhaps most famous for his contributions to genomic research, including the sequencing of the first human genome, published in 2001. However, the scientist-entrepreneur and his teams continue to investigate new ideas that are likely to affect health, medicine, food, energy use, and untold other aspects of daily life. Dr. Venter was the featured speaker during the ARVO/Alcon keynote session Sunday evening.
 
The Venter Institute, with centers in Rockville, MD, and La Jolla, CA, is involved not only in its core area of genomic sequencing but human genomic medicine, plant, microbial, and environmental genomics, synthetic biology, and infectious disease. An arm of the organization also studies social and ethical issues in genomic research.

“This is an exciting era,” Dr. Venter said. “This is definitely going to be the century of genomics and synthetic life as we for the first time truly take control of nature and begin to understand our own nature comprehensively.”

The future also may bring the design of new life forms, synthetic genomes (his team has already created a synthetic cell), cells that use sunlight and carbon dioxide as a starting point for making food, chemicals, and medicine, and reverse vaccinology, a way of developing vaccines through genomics.

Dr. Venter complimented the vision and ophthalmology field for its contributions to genomics.

“I’ve been very impressed with the eyeGENE Network,” he added. “You ought to be congratulated for leading the world in the applications of genetics and genomics to disease problems.”

This transition from the lab to real-world application is another hallmark of changes in medicine, especially in what is often termed personalized medicine. But this new era may not be quite what people have been expecting, Dr. Venter said.

“People talk about personalized medicine as though there’s going to be a drug developed for each person, but it’s going to be the other way around,” he said. “Based on your genetic code, you’re going to be able to select the best drug for you and your patients.”

Another facet of research that Dr. Venter and other researchers are involved in that will affect medicine is the human microbiome-the additional 10 million or so genes associated with the microbial communities found throughout the human body. The inter-relationship between the tremendously diverse microbiome and the human genome has an impact on human health and disease, and this is an important new area of investigation.

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