A group of five bioinformatics colleagues dined on Italian together during a recent industry conference. When conversation turned to the topic of Eric Lander’s latest remarks in the press about Celera’s genome assembly (he called it “a flop”), Gene Myers let out a sigh. “I just want to do good work and be loved,” Myers said. He could have been speaking for any of the All-Stars. As much as the genome sequencing drama (Venter calls it Shakespearean) has captured the public’s imagination and triggered glorious publicity for scientists, the unrelenting attention can get tiresome. Then again, folks like our cover models can be their own worst enemies when it comes to the media.
After Lander’s “flop” remark was quoted in the New York Times a few weeks ago, GenomeWeb editor Jennifer Friedlin asked him what motivated him to say such an inflammatory thing just when the dust was beginning to settle. Lander told her that the article was based on criticisms he had made months ago (which were reported on GenomeWeb at the time) and that he had no idea why the Times had chosen to dredge the story up now. Even so, when the Times reporter called him, he talked. As far as the Times was concerned, it seems, that made the quotes fresh. Within the community, old wounds were reopened.
During our All-Stars interview with Craig Venter, he referred to an article in the June issue of Esquire as a good example of how wildly things can get distorted. The story, which featured a photograph of a naked woman reclined under a genetic karyotype, characterized Venter as a pill-popping drunk who finished off three bottles of wine at dinner. Venter said that in fact he had taken an Advil and shared the wine with a table of 12. At least this time Venter seems to have gotten the last laugh: the karyotype hanging over the woman’s body included a Y chromosome. “Do you want to know a secret?” Venter asked. Of course we do, Craig. “It was my karyotype,” he said, breaking into his famous mischievous grin. Where on earth did Esquire get that? “From the Science paper.” Ahem. Who’s fanning the flames now?
You might notice this month that your copy of GT has a different face on the cover than the copy in your officemate’s mailbox. Because voters awarded Venter the most votes in two categories and Lander the most overall (and because we didn’t want to take a side in the public-private battle) we’ve honored them both with the cover. We’ll bestow further honors on all the All-Star winners and runners-up in October during TIGR’s Genome Sequencing and Analysis Conference. If you plan to attend the San Diego meeting, mark your calendar: Genome Technology and Compaq Computer will host the first annual GT All-Stars Awards Bash on Friday, October 26. Please join us!
Adrienne J. Burke, Editor-in-Chief