NEW YORK, April 29 - It must have been a slow news day here this weekend.
On the front page of Saturday's New York Times, readers were treated to a story reporting that the DNA behind Celera Genomics' human genome sequence was largely Craig Venter's.
Where's the news? Good question. It's been widely known in genomics circles that The Craig had volunteered some of his own DNA in Celera's race with the Human Genome Project to sequence the human genome.
Truth is, whether it was an ego binge or common curiosity (Venter swears it was the latter), the former Celera head didn't try to hide his secret very well when he and Eric Lander were inches from fisticuffs.
"Want to know a secret?" Venter said to a Genome Technology reporter last summer when asked about an article in Esquire that depicted a nude woman reclined under a genetic karyotype. "It was my karyotype." And where, pray tell, did Esquire get that particular karyotype? "From the Science paper" that contained Celera's sequence, Venter replied, flashing his trademark toothy grin.
It's a relief to know that Venter's peers still shrug their shoulders at it all: Scientists' reacted to the Times article much in the same way they reacted to the July 2001 Genome Technology interview that broke the news--with amusement and indifference.
To be sure, the Times' story, which ran almost 1,000 words, was a follow-up of a segment that ran on CBS' '60 Minutes II' on April 17 in which Venter briefly mentioned that Celera's sequence was based primarily on his own DNA.
Bioethicists can rest assured, though, that the identity of the four "anonymous" donors whose DNA was used by Celera is still a secret. "Only me and two other people" know who they are, Venter told the Times. It was not immediately clear whether his toothy grin made an appearance at that point.