J. Craig Venter, Ph.D., is Founder, Chairman, and CEO of the J. Craig Venter Institute (JVCI), a not-for-profit, research organization dedicated to human, microbial, plant, synthetic and environmental research. He is also Co-Founder and CEO of Synthetic Genomics Inc. (SGI), a privately-held company dedicated to commercializing genomic-driven solutions to address global needs. In 1998, Dr. Venter founded Celera Genomics to sequence the human genome using new tools and techniques he and his team developed. This research culminated with the February 2001 publication of the human genome in the journal, Science. Dr. Venter and his team at JVCI continue to blaze new trails in genomics. They have sequenced and analyzed hundreds of genomes and created the first self-replicating bacterial cell constructed with synthetic DNA.
In 2010, Dr. Venter and his team at the JCVI successfully constructed the first "synthetic bacterial cell" putting humankind at the threshold of a new phase of biological research, one that is enabling us to go from reading the genetic code (sequencing genomes) to now writing the genetic code for designing new species. The science of synthetic genomics will have a profound impact on society, including new methods for chemical and energy production, human health and medical advances, clean water, and new food and nutritional products. Dr. Venter, regarded as one of the leading scientists of the 21st century for his numerous pioneering advances in genomics, will guide us through this emerging field, detailing its origins, current challenges, and the potential positive advances.
Dr. Venter is a pioneer of the genomics revolution. His work on synthetic biology truly embodies the theme of “pushing the boundaries of life.” Essentially, Venter is seeking to “write the software of life” to create microbes designed by humans rather than only through evolution. The potential benefits and risks of this new technology are enormous. It also requires us to examine, both scientifically and philosophically, the question of “What is life?”