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The Genome War: How Craig Venter Tried to Capture the Code of Life and Save the World

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The long-awaited story of the science, the business, the politics, the intrigue behind the scenes of the most ferocious competition in the history of modern science—the race to map the human genome. On May 10, 1998, biologist Craig Venter, director of the Institute for Genomic Research, announced that he was forming a private company that within three years would unravel th The long-awaited story of the science, the business, the politics, the intrigue behind the scenes of the most ferocious competition in the history of modern science—the race to map the human genome. On May 10, 1998, biologist Craig Venter, director of the Institute for Genomic Research, announced that he was forming a private company that within three years would unravel the complete genetic code of human life—seven years before the projected finish of the U.S. government’s Human Genome Project. Venter hoped that by decoding the genome ahead of schedule, he would speed up the pace of biomedical research and save the lives of thousands of people. He also hoped to become very famous and very rich. Calling his company Celera (from the Latin for “speed”), he assembled a small group of scientists in an empty building in Rockville, Maryland, and set to work. At the same time, the leaders of the government program, under the direction of Francis Collins, head of the National Human Genome Research Institute at the National Institutes of Health, began to mobilize an unexpectedly unified effort to beat Venter to the prize—knowledge that had the potential to revolutionize medicine and society. The stage was set for one of the most thrilling—and important—dramas in the history of science. The Genome War is the definitive account of that drama—the race for the greatest prize biology has had to offer, told by a writer with exclusive access to Venter’s operation from start to finish. It is also the story of how one man’s ambition created a scientific Camelot where, for a moment, it seemed that the competing interests of pure science and commercial profit might be gloriously reconciled—and the national repercussions that resulted when that dream went awry. From the Hardcover edition.


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The long-awaited story of the science, the business, the politics, the intrigue behind the scenes of the most ferocious competition in the history of modern science—the race to map the human genome. On May 10, 1998, biologist Craig Venter, director of the Institute for Genomic Research, announced that he was forming a private company that within three years would unravel th The long-awaited story of the science, the business, the politics, the intrigue behind the scenes of the most ferocious competition in the history of modern science—the race to map the human genome. On May 10, 1998, biologist Craig Venter, director of the Institute for Genomic Research, announced that he was forming a private company that within three years would unravel the complete genetic code of human life—seven years before the projected finish of the U.S. government’s Human Genome Project. Venter hoped that by decoding the genome ahead of schedule, he would speed up the pace of biomedical research and save the lives of thousands of people. He also hoped to become very famous and very rich. Calling his company Celera (from the Latin for “speed”), he assembled a small group of scientists in an empty building in Rockville, Maryland, and set to work. At the same time, the leaders of the government program, under the direction of Francis Collins, head of the National Human Genome Research Institute at the National Institutes of Health, began to mobilize an unexpectedly unified effort to beat Venter to the prize—knowledge that had the potential to revolutionize medicine and society. The stage was set for one of the most thrilling—and important—dramas in the history of science. The Genome War is the definitive account of that drama—the race for the greatest prize biology has had to offer, told by a writer with exclusive access to Venter’s operation from start to finish. It is also the story of how one man’s ambition created a scientific Camelot where, for a moment, it seemed that the competing interests of pure science and commercial profit might be gloriously reconciled—and the national repercussions that resulted when that dream went awry. From the Hardcover edition.

30 review for The Genome War: How Craig Venter Tried to Capture the Code of Life and Save the World

  1. 4 out of 5

    Joan

    This was a fascinating book. I only gave it three stars for what might be a lack in me: I don't feel I learned much more about the science than before reading the book. It is a fascinating story. Like any story it has characters that are all too human in the poor sense of the word. Inflated egos were all over the place, hindering the actual science. Spite came into play more than a few times as well. Venter himself was guilty of some of this as well. The author did not try to pretty him up, even This was a fascinating book. I only gave it three stars for what might be a lack in me: I don't feel I learned much more about the science than before reading the book. It is a fascinating story. Like any story it has characters that are all too human in the poor sense of the word. Inflated egos were all over the place, hindering the actual science. Spite came into play more than a few times as well. Venter himself was guilty of some of this as well. The author did not try to pretty him up, even if the bias of the book was in his favor. The author had asked the Human Genome Project for access while the story was developing and was refused. Later when he tried to get the info through a freedom of information act, it came heavily blackened out. The author said: "...to this day I remain perplexed why an enterprise that prided itself on global access tp its genomic treasures should be so secretive about how those treasures were obtained." I suspect this is what led to an account that is biased towards Venter. On the other hand, how could it not, when only one side was providing access to the information? It is pretty ironic that the private business, accused of keeping scientific information hidden for their own profit was the side that was open to this author being involved pretty much every step of the way. The government funded "open" project was the one refusing any access to the story. Ultimately it is a cautionary tale that pure science is never completely pure. There is always going to be motivation based on ego and who claims the academic fame in addition to love of the science itself. That may not show up on the genome but it is a basic enough human trait to make you wonder if there isn't a gene coding for that somewhere!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Flag0010

    Very nice read. Describes the often tumultuous political scene that underlay the Human Genome Sequencing project. Originally the Human Genome project was publicly funded, and included many of the brightest human geneticists in the world. In addition to being brilliant scientists, this group contained some fascinating personalities. The author does an excellent job of conveying these often extreme personalities and setting the scene for what would eventually escalate into the scientific equivalen Very nice read. Describes the often tumultuous political scene that underlay the Human Genome Sequencing project. Originally the Human Genome project was publicly funded, and included many of the brightest human geneticists in the world. In addition to being brilliant scientists, this group contained some fascinating personalities. The author does an excellent job of conveying these often extreme personalities and setting the scene for what would eventually escalate into the scientific equivalent of all out nuclear war. The story really gets interesting when a rogue geneticist name J. Craig Venter decides to leave the public consortium and join a corporate venture with the intention of beating the public scientists to the prize. Most of the book tracks Venter and story. He is a fascinatingly conflicted character, equal parts megalomaniac and saint. The book delves into the science in an approachable manner. This is pretty interesting in its own right, but the real story is the brinksmanship between the public and private sequencing groups. Overall if you are interested in learning about human genomics and like a battle of the titans plot line this is the book for you

  3. 4 out of 5

    David Bird

    This book offers a plausible, journalistic account of the mapping of the human genome: plausible in the sense that the motives, machinations, and manipulations ring true enough; journalistic in the sense that vivid personalities are very much to the fore, and that deeper issues are more alluded to than thoroughly explored. Shreeve clearly talked to people on the government side of things, but spent the bulk of his time with those at Celera. One result of this is that while the government/academi This book offers a plausible, journalistic account of the mapping of the human genome: plausible in the sense that the motives, machinations, and manipulations ring true enough; journalistic in the sense that vivid personalities are very much to the fore, and that deeper issues are more alluded to than thoroughly explored. Shreeve clearly talked to people on the government side of things, but spent the bulk of his time with those at Celera. One result of this is that while the government/academic perspective of free access to data is mentioned, the real and profound ethical questions about the implications of private ownership of such knowledge go unexplored. For some of the anecdotes, Shreeve the embedded journalist was clearly present, for others not. The line of demarcation is not as clear as I would have liked. With the caveats mentioned, however, Shreeve has created an interesting and entertaining narrative of the ways that personalities shape pursuit of knowledge. While big egos distort the quest for answers to big questions, Shreeve seems to argue that without big egos, the questions would never be answered at all.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kalle Wescott

    I read /The Genome War: How Craig Venter Tried to Capture the Code of Life and Save the World/, by James Shreeve. https://www.nytimes.com/2004/02/15/bo... The genome and genetics are a fascinating world. I knew Venter's story already, but learned some additional details in Shreeve's book. I read /The Genome War: How Craig Venter Tried to Capture the Code of Life and Save the World/, by James Shreeve. https://www.nytimes.com/2004/02/15/bo... The genome and genetics are a fascinating world. I knew Venter's story already, but learned some additional details in Shreeve's book.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Wendy

    I am not sure I could like a book where the main character is so loathsome ... yeah Craig ... you are a creepy person ... you make scientists seem, ummmmm... mad, yeah mad. How in the world did you get to be so self-important? You want to know why so much government money is wasted ... look no further ... it goes to propping up the huge egos of Venter and his ilk. Sad, sad, sad. Did I learn anything from this book? yes. Did I really want to know? No.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Emilie

    This book takes on a complex project: it aims to detail the scientific, legal, ethical and social occurrences that led up to the sequencing of the full human genome. However, it makes more of the narrative arc of the race to sequence the genome than is really useful in explaining what really happened. but, it's interesting. This book takes on a complex project: it aims to detail the scientific, legal, ethical and social occurrences that led up to the sequencing of the full human genome. However, it makes more of the narrative arc of the race to sequence the genome than is really useful in explaining what really happened. but, it's interesting.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Having worked for him at TIGR, I really enjoyed seeing the next chapter. This author really captures the culture and excitement of the man and the project. It is a real page-turner, as well. Venter is such an exciting and enigmatic guy, Shreve will need to write a second volume, soon.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Hayley

    James Shreeve’s novel, The Genome War, is a fast-paced, action-packed book about the race to complete the human genome. It is aptly named, as the race became an intellectual conflict comparable to a war. In his thrilling novel, Shreeve opened my eyes to the ordinariness of scientists, the political nature of scientific discovery, and the way competition can shape results. Before reading The Genome War, I idolized the forefathers of genetics (Mendel, Darwin, Watson, McClintock, etc.). Because of James Shreeve’s novel, The Genome War, is a fast-paced, action-packed book about the race to complete the human genome. It is aptly named, as the race became an intellectual conflict comparable to a war. In his thrilling novel, Shreeve opened my eyes to the ordinariness of scientists, the political nature of scientific discovery, and the way competition can shape results. Before reading The Genome War, I idolized the forefathers of genetics (Mendel, Darwin, Watson, McClintock, etc.). Because of their accomplishments, it was easy for me to think of them as super-human. This book revealed things far beyond the accomplishments listed in textbooks, however. Mendel himself—the father of plant genetics—is painted as a reclusive, awkward man who was a terrible presenter and lacked the ego to be successful at anything in his lifetime. He was not particularly brilliant, but was observant and a little bit lucky. This is quite a contrast to the bright, humble, innovative monk I’ve learned about in the classroom. Now, he is so much more human to me. The leaders of the two opposing sides of the genome war were unfamiliar to me before reading this book, but Shreeve led me on a similarly illuminating journey as he told the stories of their lives. Craig Venter was far from being an exceptional student or high achiever in his youth. In fact, he failed many of his classes in junior high and high school, didn’t plan to attend college, and even tried to get out of mandatory military service. To me, he seemed like a self-absorbed beach bum with little perspective and few ambitions. He had always been clever, but didn’t make much of his life until he returned from his compulsory service as a medic in the Vietnam war. He had learned the hard way about the fragile nature of human life and wanted to learn more. He had plenty of ego, which ended up serving him very well as he pursued an education and career in biomedical research. Francis Collins, on the other hand, seemed to have had an idyllic upbringing. Shreeve takes advantage of the two contrasting characters by describing the little Virginia farm where Collins was homeschooled and emphasizing that he was always a good student with high aspirations. He is much more like the noble, virtuoso, textbook scientist I had expected, but even the principled Dr. Collins was prone to the pride that seems fundamental among scientific giants. As the story of Collins and Venter is told, Shreeve also uses their unique experiences to illustrate the two sides of science: “big business” and “pure science.” These opposing factions are introduced early in the book as the main cause of the conflict. Thus far, scientists have been able to achieve greatness in either academics or in business—not both simultaneously. Businessmen in the scientific world are unabashedly seeking their fortune by using science and technology. The goal of pure science is, supposedly, the more righteous cause of the betterment of mankind. Yet, under the pretense of being noble, academia is just as full of arrogance as big business. While the businessmen are in it for the money, academics want credit and fame. Venter is the perfect poster-child for big business science. In fact, he is so ambitious that he tries to go in for both the credit and the money when he decides to privately sequence the human genome ahead of the public program’s schedule. This cross into the territory of academia is an outrage to the public human genome project. Collins, the director of the project, embodies “altruistic” academia as he nobly amasses his scientific troops to finish the genome first. Within the conflict between Venter’s project and the public human genome project, Shreeve’s illustrates the huge amount of ego motivating both sides. The ensuing competition raises an interesting question for the reader. Did the competition between the two programs work in favor of good science, or against it? Without each other’s competition, it would undoubtedly have taken much longer to complete the entire human genome. As the two projects raced to a finish, they realized that neither could win completely. Venter and Collins decided to shake hands and finish together. Their articles were published in the same magazine on the same day, and that was the end of the conflict. The tie seemed a bit dissatisfying to both projects, and it was a letdown to me as a reader, as well. But was the conflict that lead to this peaceful resolution beneficial to the result? Shreeve seems to be biased in favor of scientific competition. It is true that the pace of scientific invention rapidly increased, enabling the human genome to be sequenced far ahead of schedule. As the race sped up, though, all of the scientists involved seemed concerned that they were losing quality and accuracy. It seems that the competition caused the scientists to sacrifice quality for speed. In my opinion, scientific accuracy would be better than finishing a project just a few years ahead of schedule. At the same time, if science works like capitalism, a little bit of competition is excellent motivation. The overlying insight that I will take away from this book is that science is a field for ordinary human beings who want to accomplish the extraordinary. The scientists I’ve read about in textbooks were often far from being perfect or unusually brilliant. They were fallible, imperfect human beings. Some may have even been more fortunate than smart or more motivated by ego than by virtue. Also, no matter how much knowledge has been revealed recently in biological sciences, our knowledge is far from complete. I have been somewhat aware of discoveries in the biological sciences from a young age. I actually remember learning that the human genome had been sequenced as an elementary school student. The importance of that achievement has never meant more to me than it does now that I am studying genetics at BYU. It is incredible that so much has happened in my lifetime, and it makes me excited to join the ranks of scientists who are still learning more about genetics. The Genome War has shaped the way I think about biology and genomics by making me realize that there is still so much to be understood, that science is a live and active field, and that I can play a role in the rapidly developing field of genetics.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

    I read this for my genomics class via audiobook. Not sure if the book would have kept my attention 🤔 but I actually really enjoyed listening to this while I worked. Opened my eyes to the race to recreate the Human Genome and all the drama behind it. So many times I felt like shaking all the dudes in the book - why cant you just work together!! It would have probably had a better outcome + been more efficient and produced a better working genome if they had. But differences between people can rea I read this for my genomics class via audiobook. Not sure if the book would have kept my attention 🤔 but I actually really enjoyed listening to this while I worked. Opened my eyes to the race to recreate the Human Genome and all the drama behind it. So many times I felt like shaking all the dudes in the book - why cant you just work together!! It would have probably had a better outcome + been more efficient and produced a better working genome if they had. But differences between people can really blind others... putting their desires to get money, to have the credit, to prove themselves really got in the way here. Very cool read though!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Becky John

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Life is more beautiful when you have someone you love who loves you even more but after my husband left me heartbroken. I was lonely and sad luckily I was directed to a very kind and powerful man Dr. okpodo who brought back my husband and now he loves me far more than ever am so happy with life now thank you so much Dr. okpodo contact him on ([email protected])or whatsapp only +234815105617 his website https://okpodosolutionhome.blogspot.c... Life is more beautiful when you have someone you love who loves you even more but after my husband left me heartbroken. I was lonely and sad luckily I was directed to a very kind and powerful man Dr. okpodo who brought back my husband and now he loves me far more than ever am so happy with life now thank you so much Dr. okpodo contact him on ([email protected])or whatsapp only +234815105617 his website https://okpodosolutionhome.blogspot.c...

  11. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    I have no idea what other people would think about this book. I liked getting the backstory about the projects that laid the groundwork for my career. I am still trying to decide if I would want to work with Craig if ever given the he chance. He seems intense and somewhat unhinged but also a creative genius that doesn't let details and reality slow him down. I have no idea what other people would think about this book. I liked getting the backstory about the projects that laid the groundwork for my career. I am still trying to decide if I would want to work with Craig if ever given the he chance. He seems intense and somewhat unhinged but also a creative genius that doesn't let details and reality slow him down.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Oleg Iartchouk

    It is a very interesting read. I have enjoyed a complexity of politics, some drama of last minute advances of projects, complexity of inner workings in a lab. The book does seem as a true representation of a complex project’s life that is very interesting to experience and relate to.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    I listened to this book on audio and absolutely loved it! The narration was great and the story itself was fascinating. I've been recommending this book to people because I enjoyed it that much, despite that fact that it has been out for a number of years now. I listened to this book on audio and absolutely loved it! The narration was great and the story itself was fascinating. I've been recommending this book to people because I enjoyed it that much, despite that fact that it has been out for a number of years now.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kaa

    The facts are the same, but presented without doubts differently than in the Venter's book (more attacks on Venter in comparison to Venter's unnatural modesty). [-Addendum to 14th Amendment: no discrimination on the bases of genetic material ] The facts are the same, but presented without doubts differently than in the Venter's book (more attacks on Venter in comparison to Venter's unnatural modesty). [-Addendum to 14th Amendment: no discrimination on the bases of genetic material ]

  15. 5 out of 5

    Shawn Liu

    A fun and in-depth look at the race between public and private efforts to sequence the first Human Genome in early 2000's. Part politics, part science, and lots of colorful personalities. A fun and in-depth look at the race between public and private efforts to sequence the first Human Genome in early 2000's. Part politics, part science, and lots of colorful personalities.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Anya

    I don't think I would have finished this book if I didn't have to make a class presentation over it. Great story about the race for sequencing human genome between Craig Venter and public research institutions. There was quite a drama happening for fifteen years since the day Venter has announced a decision to start working on the project. It is a nice story depicting what it costed to Venter to build his empire including hiring top researchers, finding investors, and buying super computers. How I don't think I would have finished this book if I didn't have to make a class presentation over it. Great story about the race for sequencing human genome between Craig Venter and public research institutions. There was quite a drama happening for fifteen years since the day Venter has announced a decision to start working on the project. It is a nice story depicting what it costed to Venter to build his empire including hiring top researchers, finding investors, and buying super computers. However, the emotional context of the book is exaggerated - I felt like I was reading people magazine for the scientists. I don't think I should care about what facial expressions people have, or what they wear, or what they have dreams about. I understand that the author tried to tell a story because stories are great. It can get boring reading another report or publication, but this book will give you a bit of a flavor that scientists would want to read about. Sometimes, it can be too much though, and this is that case.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Bojan Tunguz

    The decoding of the entire human DNA has been rightly considered the most important scientific achievement of the start of end of twentieth and the beginning of twenty-first century. The Human Genome, as the complete DNA information is know, is a vast, complicated information resource that is essentially a digital instruction book on how to build a human organism. The promise for all of human biology in understanding such an important repository of information is enormous. It has the potential t The decoding of the entire human DNA has been rightly considered the most important scientific achievement of the start of end of twentieth and the beginning of twenty-first century. The Human Genome, as the complete DNA information is know, is a vast, complicated information resource that is essentially a digital instruction book on how to build a human organism. The promise for all of human biology in understanding such an important repository of information is enormous. It has the potential to completely and irrevocably alter how biology and medicine are done. Ever since the epochal discovery of the structure of DNA by Watson and Crick, we had understood that genes are nothing else but the long strands of DNA molecule that code for particular proteins. At the same time the sheer size of the entire genome became obvious, and it seemed like it will be at least another century before we are able to decode it in its entirety. However, with passing of years our technology became ever more sophisticated and it started to look increasingly plausible that the decoding of the whole genome of single species was within the reach. Slowly a consortium of government-funded and academic labs started to form, with their eyes on the most important genome of them all: that of Homo Sapiens. However, in the late nineteen-nineties a powerful challenge to the government's project was launched from the private sector. Led by Craig Venter, "Celera Genomics" promised to map the entire human genome much faster than the government-sponsored consortium could, and presumably for a much more affordable price - it would certainly cost nothing to the taxpayers. Instead of buckling down, the government project decided to redouble its own effort and as a consequence the race for the primacy was born. This book tells us about that race. It is primarily written from the point of view of Craig Venter, one of the most unique and controversial living scientists. He truly has really lead a very unusual scientific career, and had he achieved far less than the success with mapping the human genome it would have been still worthwhile to read his story. The narrative in this book is very compelling, and we get a lot of detail in how scientists go about their business, what it takes to assemble a World-class team for an enormously complex project, and how personal interactions and healthy egos make the actual path to scientific discovery much more messy than we would have otherwise thought. In real world there are no true dispassionate searchers for truth - ambition and all other basic human motivators are present and important. This book does a really good job of exposing these considerations and waving them all together in an enjoyable and readable story.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Frank Ryan

    I enjoyed reading this book. In places I read it as I would a thriller, it was so engrossing. I was well aware of the confrontation between the official Genome Project, NIH sponsored, and the private consortium, Celera, founded by Craig Venter. Having worked as a doctor and scientist all my life, I am used to the somewhat tentative interface between pure science, or pure medicine, and big business, in the form of the pharmaceutical industry. The goals of the doctors and scientists are rather dif I enjoyed reading this book. In places I read it as I would a thriller, it was so engrossing. I was well aware of the confrontation between the official Genome Project, NIH sponsored, and the private consortium, Celera, founded by Craig Venter. Having worked as a doctor and scientist all my life, I am used to the somewhat tentative interface between pure science, or pure medicine, and big business, in the form of the pharmaceutical industry. The goals of the doctors and scientists are rather different from those of a commercial company, which has to make a profit to keep in business. But in my experience both are necessary, certainly so to medicine. This battle was however of exceptional interest and importance since its battlefield was the core of our being, our human genome. If you're not interested in your genome, you might as well say you don't care about your human essence. The theme should appeal to a pretty much universal intelligent readership. I thought that the author, James Shreeve, captured the human tensions and pressures in a day to day way exceptionally well. So well, in fact, that I felt I was there and would have had something to say about things myself about the somewhat patrician attitude of some of the officially funded scientists. Yet at the same time, having been involved with similar dilemmas, I felt for them too. Some of the science, though familiar enough to me, might be very unfamiliar to lay readers, though Shreeve did a good job of simplifying it - often reducing it to a light hearted metaphor. What really comes across superbly is the character, ambition and sheer compulsive drive of Craig Venter. He would appear to be the epitome of the entrepreneur while yet retaining the zest and love of the basic science. It is isn't already destined to be a movie, it should become one. I've gone straight out to buy Venter's own book, Life at the Speed of Light. Recommended.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Yofish

    Really 4.25 The author follows J Craig Venter, who is a scientist/entrepeneur who is a little full of himself. His company declares that it will map the whole human genome---but at the same time, there is a HUGE effort funded by the feds to do exactly that. Venter claims that his method will go much faster, and so the academics should just stop and do something else instead. Yeah, that goes over well. But the author is granted access from this beginning point. Well, to the company's doings, so we Really 4.25 The author follows J Craig Venter, who is a scientist/entrepeneur who is a little full of himself. His company declares that it will map the whole human genome---but at the same time, there is a HUGE effort funded by the feds to do exactly that. Venter claims that his method will go much faster, and so the academics should just stop and do something else instead. Yeah, that goes over well. But the author is granted access from this beginning point. Well, to the company's doings, so we get a much better sense of what's going on there than in the "competing" version. And it is a competition. Boy howdy. The real problem with this book is the incredible egos of the scientists involved---they're really quite unpleasant to spend time with. In the end, both efforts sort of stop before it's really done; what a waste. I mean *something* gets done, but not really what could have happened, had they been more willing/able to work together. But everyone wants to be first. To make history or whatever. Sigh. The author does a good job of explaining the science (or at least good enough for me). There's this weird dilemma, especially for Venter's company, between publishing everything they find, and patenting things (well, genes) so they can make money off them. It's never *completely* clear which Venter wants to do, or what he'd be allowed to do. And all the compromises necessary to move forward leave nobody happy. How could anyone have ever believed that patenting genes was legit?

  20. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    Much of the science went directly over my head, but the drama of the race for the human genome is a fascinating one. On one side, there is the government funded Human Genome project, made up of universities and various government agencies and on the other side is Craig Venter. Venter’s concern was not only with sequencing the human genome, but also in capturing “valuable” real estate on the genome via patenting. Thus, the race took on mind-boggling importance of who would own the code to life. W Much of the science went directly over my head, but the drama of the race for the human genome is a fascinating one. On one side, there is the government funded Human Genome project, made up of universities and various government agencies and on the other side is Craig Venter. Venter’s concern was not only with sequencing the human genome, but also in capturing “valuable” real estate on the genome via patenting. Thus, the race took on mind-boggling importance of who would own the code to life. Would it be made freely available to the public, or would its disposition rest solely on the whims of a private company? In the end, a tie was declared and everyone came away slightly peeved and slightly happy. While Shreeve did a good job of capturing the tensions of the era, he largely ducked and avoided any of the deeper questions such as: Now that we have the sequence, what are we going to do with it? Who is going to benefit? How? And so on. McKibben and Berry would have a field day with this one.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Bookmarks Magazine

    Though he might be admired for his lofty scientific goals, Venter is not a well-liked man. At the time in question, the government called him "Darth Vader." Shreeve merely describes him both as "an inspiration" and an "opportunistic maniac." Genome War pays close attention to this ego-driven biologist. Despite his facade, he comes across as a complex man with deep insecurities. Shreeve, who gained full access to Celera, handles technical information well and reveals the inner bowels of the compa Though he might be admired for his lofty scientific goals, Venter is not a well-liked man. At the time in question, the government called him "Darth Vader." Shreeve merely describes him both as "an inspiration" and an "opportunistic maniac." Genome War pays close attention to this ego-driven biologist. Despite his facade, he comes across as a complex man with deep insecurities. Shreeve, who gained full access to Celera, handles technical information well and reveals the inner bowels of the company. We see the human genome war exclusively from Celera's battle lines, but this perspective (and Venter's often flat portrayal) barely detract from a compelling story about the search for our genetic make-up. To be continued, for sure, with battle lines possibly redrawn. This is an excerpt from a review published in Bookmarks magazine.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Austin Larson

    James Shreeve had the inside scoop on Celera's attempt to sequence the human genome in the year 2000 and after a three year period, he was allowed to publish it. The narrative is one-sided - as Shreeve writes, he was not given access to the NIH Human Genome Project so his descriptions of those events are second hand. He does an excellent job explaining the science behind the sequencing and interpretation of the genome and creates memorable characters out of the scientists at Celera. I think ther James Shreeve had the inside scoop on Celera's attempt to sequence the human genome in the year 2000 and after a three year period, he was allowed to publish it. The narrative is one-sided - as Shreeve writes, he was not given access to the NIH Human Genome Project so his descriptions of those events are second hand. He does an excellent job explaining the science behind the sequencing and interpretation of the genome and creates memorable characters out of the scientists at Celera. I think there's particular value in understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the private sector versus the government-funded efforts. While the private sector was able to be more innovative and mobilize resources more efficiently, sequencing the human genome ended up being a lousy business proposition and the public agencies are still strong entities fifteen years later after the events of this book.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Igor Faynshteyn

    The distinguished feature of this book is its style of writing. It is fluent and straight forward. Although this is a depiction of the whole story behind the Human Genome Project, it reads like an epic tale of a breathtaking journey. James Shreeve gives a close account of all the events that led up to the sequencing of human genome, including politics, science, business, legal issues and personal relations. What's more, is that a lay reader who understands nothing about genes or molecular biology The distinguished feature of this book is its style of writing. It is fluent and straight forward. Although this is a depiction of the whole story behind the Human Genome Project, it reads like an epic tale of a breathtaking journey. James Shreeve gives a close account of all the events that led up to the sequencing of human genome, including politics, science, business, legal issues and personal relations. What's more, is that a lay reader who understands nothing about genes or molecular biology can learn much from this book. While the book is non-technical it is sufficient to explain to the lay reader about genes, their importance, as well as their pharmaceutical value. This book is a true page-turner, and hard to put down.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Arthur Gibson

    Good book. Certainly a good telling of the events from inside the minds of those who participated. Due to some access issues it was a little one sided, but the author tells why and is very up front about it. Would recommend to anyone who was interested in how they came to map the genome. So sad that the darker aspects of humanity (greed, jealousy, pride) interfered so much with it. It could have been done faster and possibly better if everyone had been able to play nice. A lesson for future ende Good book. Certainly a good telling of the events from inside the minds of those who participated. Due to some access issues it was a little one sided, but the author tells why and is very up front about it. Would recommend to anyone who was interested in how they came to map the genome. So sad that the darker aspects of humanity (greed, jealousy, pride) interfered so much with it. It could have been done faster and possibly better if everyone had been able to play nice. A lesson for future endeavors, but one we have not yet learned in our thousands of years of recorded history.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Derek

    The book explored the conflict between the Human Genome Project a government-based effort to map the human genome and the private efforts of Craig Venter to beat the government to the punch. Craig Venter is the type of man I would not like in person. But he cannot be ignored as a daring and competent individual. I will not scrutinize his ability as a scientist; I’m not equipped to make such judgments. What his optimism and indomitable will accomplished is tremendous and noteworthy. It is on the The book explored the conflict between the Human Genome Project a government-based effort to map the human genome and the private efforts of Craig Venter to beat the government to the punch. Craig Venter is the type of man I would not like in person. But he cannot be ignored as a daring and competent individual. I will not scrutinize his ability as a scientist; I’m not equipped to make such judgments. What his optimism and indomitable will accomplished is tremendous and noteworthy. It is on the backs of men and women like this that our lives are bettered in degrees.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Riccol

    An interesting subject and not a bad book but you need a spread-sheet to keep track of the dozens of characters, the entities they work for or are members of, how those entities themselves are related, what their agendas were ... I eventually gave up on trying to keep it all straight. Past the half-way point I began to feel it was getting rather repetitive and struggled to keep going but I did because I wanted to see the main "plot" resolved. An interesting subject and not a bad book but you need a spread-sheet to keep track of the dozens of characters, the entities they work for or are members of, how those entities themselves are related, what their agendas were ... I eventually gave up on trying to keep it all straight. Past the half-way point I began to feel it was getting rather repetitive and struggled to keep going but I did because I wanted to see the main "plot" resolved.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Joel

    Yeah, yeah, this seems like a totally nerdy science book, but don't be fooled. It's really the tale of one of the most important races of the 20th century - the race to map the human genome. It honestly has it all, drive, dedication, deceit, love, hate, you name it. Shreeve's narrative style is smooth and definitely compatible with lay understanding. Yeah, yeah, this seems like a totally nerdy science book, but don't be fooled. It's really the tale of one of the most important races of the 20th century - the race to map the human genome. It honestly has it all, drive, dedication, deceit, love, hate, you name it. Shreeve's narrative style is smooth and definitely compatible with lay understanding.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ross

    Very interesting story both from a scientific and business standpoint, and very well written. This is a prime example of how big science can involve and generate big business. The main figure in the story is a highly unusual man named Craig Venter. For a scientist he has the most unusual background you can possibly imagine, which adds considerably to the interest of the story.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Cynthia Karl

    An outstanding book - proves once again that truth can be stranger than fiction. What a cast of characters and the author does an excellent job of describing them. The author is also very good at using metaphors and analogies to explain the sometimes complex scientific and technological aspects of unraveling the mysteries of the genome.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Tanya Spackman

    Less interesting than expected. However, I did enjoy learning about what was going on in the 1990s. That was when I was eagerly following each journal article about microbe DNA that was sequenced, and when I thought TIGR would be such a cool place to work. Reading about all the politics and drama that was going on during that time was quite enjoyable.

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