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The Dark Side of Metagenomics


GenomeWeb Intelligence Network


PO Box 998, Peck Slip Station, New York, NY 10272 USA


Attn: J. Craig Venter Institute

From: GenomeWeb News Team


Dear Craig,

Congratulations on your recent announcement that the Venter Institute will be sequencing the microorganisms in New York City air. As residents of this wonderful city, we’d like to ask one teensy favor when you’ve completed your work: please don’t publish it. There’s no need to make the data public, or even send out a press release with your most interesting findings. We’d rather not know what we’re breathing, thank you very much.

It occurred to us that there are a number of other environments that, for the public good, should under no circumstances ever be sequenced. Please never sequence:

The Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory cafeteria sneeze guard after a week-long conference.

Doorknobs inside CDC’s Level IV containment lab

Soles of a grad student’s Tevas after a long day in the cell culture lab

The plenary session podium microphone at the BIO annual meeting

Thanks in advance for your cooperation. We’ll all breathe a sigh of relief (and who knows what else?) when the results of your study are safely locked away.


All our best,

The Staff of GenomeWeb


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