BUFFALO, N.Y. -- J. Craig Venter, PhD, the pioneering biologist
who led the first team to sequence the human genome, received a
State University of New York Honorary Doctorate in Science at the
University at Buffalo on Sept. 20. The honorary degree was
conferred on him at a ceremony that followed the grand opening of
UB's Clinical and Translational Research Center in the joint
UB-Kaleida Health building in downtown Buffalo.
UB President Satish K. Tripathi called Venter "one of the 21st
century's most influential scientists and widely regarded as the
world's foremost leader in the field of genetic research." He said
he couldn't think of a more fitting individual to honor on the
occasion of the CTRC opening.
The degree was conferred on Venter by SUNY Trustees Angelo Fatta
and Eunice Lewin.
Venter, a former UB and Roswell Park Cancer Institute scientist,
developed a revolutionary strategy for rapid gene discovery while
working at the National Institutes of Health. He later founded The
Institute for Genomic Research and, in 1995, he and his team
decoded the genome of the first free-living organism. At Celera
Genomics, which he founded in 1998, Venter sequenced the human
genome using new tools and techniques he and his team developed.
The successful completion of this research culminated with the
February 2001 publication of the human genome in the journal
Speaking before the audience that gathered in the fifth floor
atrium of the CTRC, Venter expressed his honest admiration for UB's
newest research facility.
"I'm actually jealous," he said, after accepting the SUNY
honorary degree. "This is some of the most beautiful lab space I've
seen and the views are always improving." Venter then described his
newest building, now under construction on the University of
California San Diego campus, which, he conceded, will have even
better views because it is located right next to the Pacific
In addition to the CTRC's physical assets, Venter praised UB and
Buffalo for committing to the creation of a life sciences economy.
"I'm a strong believer that the future does rest in a bioeconomy,"
Venter also gave an update on genomics, describing the massive
amounts of digital information that the research has produced and
the challenge caused by this "digitizing of biology." While the
mammalian genome has largely been completed, he said, there is
plenty of genetic diversity on the planet that has yet to be
"By sequencing the microbiome, we find we are not alone," he
said. "In addition to the 2 million human genes we have, each of us
also contains about 10 million additional microbe genes. We live in
a microbial world; we are visitors here."
He and his colleagues are also looking at the vast genetic
diversity in the ocean. "Every time we take a sample of seawater,
we see between 1 and 3 million genes that haven't been seen
before," he said.
While noting that the idea that it's possible to sequence your
own genome for about $1,000 may be an overstatement, he said that
personalized medicine based on a patient's genetic information
"will be a standard part of medicine within a few years."
Venter is founder and president of the J. Craig Venter
Institute, a not-for-profit, research and support organization
dedicated to human, microbial, plant and environmental genomic
research, the exploration of social and ethical issues in genomics,
and alternative energy solutions through genomics. He and his team
continue to blaze new trails in genomics research and have
published numerous important papers covering such areas as the
first complete diploid human genome, environmental genomics and
Venter also is founder and chief executive officer of the
company Synthetic Genomics Inc., a privately held company
commercializing genomic advances.