J. Craig Venter is regarded as one of the leading scientists of the 21st century for his contributions to genomic research. He is founder and president of the J. Craig Venter Institute and J. Craig Venter Science Foundation, not-for-profit research and support organizations dedicated to human genomic research, exploration of social and ethical issues in genomics, and alternative energy solutions through microbial sources. He is also the founder and chairman of the Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR).
Dr. Venter began his formal education after serving as a Navy corpsman in Vietnam from 1967 to 1968. After earning a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and a Ph.D. in physiology and pharmacology, both from the University of California at San Diego and both in three years, he was appointed professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo and the Roswell Park Cancer Institute. In 1984, he moved to the National Institutes of Health, where he developed expressed-sequence tags (ESTs), a revolutionary strategy for gene discovery. In 1992, he founded TIGR, where he and his team decoded the genome of the first free-living organism, the bacterium Haemophilus influenzae, using an original whole-genome shotgun technique. Since then, TIGR has sequenced more than 50 genomes using Dr. Venter's techniques.
In 1998, Dr. Venter founded Celera Genomics to sequence the human genome, once again using the whole-genome shotgun technique, new mathematical algorithms, and automated DNA-sequencing machines. The successful completion of this research culminated in the publication of the human genome in February 2001. Dr. Venter and his team at Celera have also sequenced the fruit fly, mouse, and rat genomes. At the Venter Institute, Dr. Venter and his team continue to blaze new trails in genomics research and have recently published several important papers outlining advances, such as environmental genomics through the characterization of more than one million new genes found in microbes from the Sargasso Sea; synthetic biology, with publication of research on the synthetic PhiX 174; and the sequence and analysis of the dog genome.
Dr. Venter is the author of more than 200 articles and the recipient of numerous honorary degrees, public honors, and scientific awards, including Financial Times Man of the Year Award, Time Magazine Man of the Year (runner up), 2002 Gairdner Foundation International Award, and the 2001 Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize. Dr. Venter is a member of many scientific organizations, including the National Academy of Sciences, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and American Society for Microbiology. He was also one of the first 38 people to be selected by Desmond Tutu as part of the "Hands That Shape Humanity" world exhibition.