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Craig Venter Goes Shopping for Bioinformatics to Fill His New Sequencing Center

NEW YORK, Oct. 16 - Craig Venter has been talking with "top computer manufacturers" in the hopes of fitting out his new genome-sequencing center with powerful and practical bioinformatics technology, Venter said during a recent interview with GenomeWeb.

"It's sort of like déjà vu all over again," Venter said, referring to the talks he had while building Celera's IT infrastructure. "We want to do things differently this time in the sense that the 1.5 teraflop computer we built at Celera was built to assemble the human genome"


This time, Venter said, he wants "to build something that is replicable so any major medical center in the US or around the world can have a chance to do the same level of computing."


To be sure, Venter declined to disclose the nature of the talks he's been having, or even which IT facilities he's approached. (Though his spokeswoman, Heather Kowalski, yesterday confirmed he's been trying "for some time" to meet with Microsoft's Bill Gates).

But Venter has hinted at the characteristics he'd like his IT platform to have. For on thing, he said he'd be interested in IT that "doesn't require the massive air conditioning. The room at Celera cost $6 million before you put the computer in. That makes it pretty expensive," said Venter, whose new center and newly opened research facilities aim at making gene sequencing more affordable and practical. "If for any hospital to interpret the genetic code of their patients they need $100 million computer, this is not a revolution that will go very far."


Consequently, he said he's been "looking at these new green machines being considered at the DOE that have lower energy requirements" and therefore produce less heat. "We're looking at ambient temperatures, massively parallel processors. We're trying to come up with almost the opposite of what we did at Celera: simple, cheap replicable supercomputing."


For Venter, the IT infrastructure must "move forward at the same pace if not a faster pace as the sequencing technology." And he'll have at least one familiar bioinformatics face at his newfangled Rockville, Md., sequencing center: Marshall Peterson, who helped Celera build its IT platform, has set up shop at the Venter Center.


Click here to read the complete interview GenomeWeb conducted with Venter during this year's GSAC meeting.

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