Dr. J. Craig Venter has made numerous contributions to genomics—from ESTs and the first genome of a living species, to the human genome and environmental genomics, to the most recent accomplishments of constructing the first synthetic bacterial cell.
Venter’s initial efforts focused on identifying human genes through random cDNA sequencing (through the use of expressed sequence tags or ESTs) which identified fragments of about half the human genes in his 1995 publication.
Venter led the group that produced the first full sequence of a bacterium, H. influenza, using their whole genome shotgun approach. Five years later, Venter co-founded a company, Celera Genomics, to extend the whole genome shotgun method with newly developed algorithms and instrumentation to sequence the drosophila, human, mouse, rat and mosquito genomes. His group published a draft human sequence simultaneously with the publicly-funded Human Genome Project in 2001.
Venter went on to apply high-throughput sequencing to ocean microbial populations and the human gut, contributing greatly to the rapidly expanding field of metagenomics. More recently, Venter has focused much of his group’s efforts on synthetic genomics, first synthesizing the phix-174 viral genome and transplanting the genome of M. mycoides into a cell of a related species. In 2010 he and the team combined those two technologies, using synthetic oligo-nucleotides to recreate a 1.1 million base pair bacterial genome, and placed it in a new host, thereby constructing the largest synthetically made genome and the first synthetic bacterial cell.
Dr. Venter has received numerous awards and honors including: The 2008 National Medal of Science; Washington, DC, Member, National Academy of Sciences, Washington, DC; Member of the American Society of Microbiology; Honorary Doctor of Science - Syracuse University; the Benjamin Rush Medal - College of William and Mary, VA; Honorary Doctor of Science - Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York; Scientist of the Year - ARCS Foundation, San Diego; Doctor of Science Honoris Causa - University of Melbourne; Doctorat Honoris Causa - University of Montreal; Doctor of Science Honoris Causa - Imperial College, London; Scripps Institute of Oceanography Nierenberg Prize, La Jolla, CA; Honorary Doctor of Science, Chung Yuan University, Taipei; Presidential Distinguished Scientific Award; World Health Award, Presented by Mikhail Gorbachev, World Awards, Vienna, Austria; University College London Prize in Clinical Science - London, England; Honorary Doctor of Technology, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden; Medal of the Presidency, Italian Republic, Rimini, Italy; Prince of Asturias Award for Technical and Scientific Research; Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Washington, DC; and the Exceptional Service Award for Exploring Genomes.