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Craig Venter Says What He Thinks (Again)

Der Spiegel sat down with Craig Venter to talk about his work on the human genome, what we have yet to learn from it, and the potential his current work with synthetic life has for humankind. The furor over the availability of genetic information and whether or not that information should be made available to people is "nonsense," according to Venter. "If anything, we don't really know how to read the genome and it can't tell us very much right now. So what's the ethical debate about?" he says, adding that the Human Genome Project has "close to zero" medical benefits so far. It has provided us with a lot of new knowledge, but we haven't learned anything but "probabilities" for disease. "How does a 1 or 3 percent increased risk for something translate into the clinic? It is useless information," Venter says. He also knocks the idea that a better interpretation of the genome can lead to personalized treatments for disease. The synthetic cell, however, is "the most important tools for interpreting the human genome," he adds, as it will enable researchers to explore previously inaccessible questions, and eventually allow us to produce fuel, plastic, and other petroleum-based products. It seems Venter couldn't resist also aiming sharp little digs at his rivals, calling Francis Collins "a government administrator" when asked if he considered Collins a true scientist, and saying his detractors — one name lobbed his way often is "Darth Venter" — are merely upset that they were beaten by "superior intelligence, planning, and technology."

HT: In the Pipeline's Derek Lowe

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