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Tuesday, 22 January, 2002, 11:43 GMT
Genome pioneer steps down
Venter, BBC
Dr Venter will concentrate on his scientific advisory role
Dr Craig Venter, the US scientist who led the private effort to decode the human genome, has quit as boss of his company Celera Genomics.

The role of president is to be taken temporarily by Tony White, the head of Applera, which holds a majority stake in the Maryland outfit.

Dr Venter was lauded at the White House by President Clinton when scientists announced they had completed a rough draft of biochemical instructions for life - the three billion "letters" of DNA contained within each cell of the human body.

The researcher had become something of a controversial figure in the project with his frequent criticisms of the methods being used by publicly funded scientists.

A deal was eventually worked out whereby Celera and the public effort would simultaneously publish their work. This they did in the journals Science and Nature last February.

Genome data-mining

Celera Genomics - which has the slogan "Speed matters - discovery can't wait" - has employed new decoding technology and supercomputers to accelerate genome discovery.

Craig has led a team at Celera that has made incredible achievements in a short period of time

Tony White, Applera
Part of its business model was based on research institutes subscribing to online genome data mined by Celera scientists.

The data would allow researchers to compare and contrast different living organisms to find the genetic causes of disease and so develop new therapies.

But Applera has made it clear that it wants Celera to focus more strongly on drug discovery itself.

Tony White said in a statement: "Craig has led a team at Celera that has made incredible achievements in a short period of time; most notably involving the historic sequencing of the human genome.

"Following completion of that milestone, we have focused on leveraging our accomplishments to facilitate a new model in therapeutic discovery."

Different mindset

Dr Venter added: "We are now at a critical juncture where my best contributions can be made in a scientific advisory role, allowing the rest of the organisation to continue Celera's progress toward becoming a successful pharmaceutical business."

Keith Redpath, a life sciences analyst at WestLB Panmure, said emerging companies often sought to re-energise themselves by bringing in new management.

"It's not just about fresh blood," he told BBC News Online.

"The entrepreneurial starters of companies are not the people necessarily to keep a public company moving forward.

"It's alright when you are just a research-based company, but when you get down to becoming more commercial, a different skill and mindset is often required."

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See also:

12 Feb 01 | Sci/Tech
Row over 'Book of Life'
30 May 00 | Human genome
The maverick: Craig Venter
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