In 1991 an ex-surfer and Vietnam veteran, Venter started his own non-profit genetic research centre, The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR). Venter’s radical methods—including the “shotgun” technique, which involved using high-speed computers to reassemble the genome of an organism after it had been scrambled in an ordinary kitchen blender—made many in the genomics field extremely sceptical. Nevertheless, within a year of its creation, TIGR had published the entire genome of a crucial bacterium, the first free-living organism to be completely sequenced. He moved on to found Celera Genomics in 1998, backed by $300 million from a collaborator.
Venter’s shocking announcement galvanized the HGP into action.
In March of 2000, President Bill Clinton and Prime Minister Tony Blair made a joint declaration that all genome information should be free to the public. The subsequent fall in Celera’s stock price made Venter willing to cooperate and colleagues brokered a deal between the two very different men.
On 26 June 2000, Venter and Dr. Francis Collins jointly announced that, after nearly a decade of work, both the Human Genome Project and Celera had deciphered essentially all of the 3.1 billion “letters” that make up human DNA. The importance of the cooperation between these two influential geneticists and the genome sequencing effort in general is far-reaching. Within an understanding of the human genome are the keys to diagnosing and treating any number of devastating diseases.