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Monday, 17 July, 2000, 11:38 GMT 12:38 UK
Celera plans next step
Venter BBC
Craig Venter: Looking beyond the genome
By BBC News Online science editor Dr David Whitehouse

Dr Craig Venter, head of Celera Genomics, which last month produced a "first assembly", or rough draft, of the human genetic code, has outlined his next goal.

Speaking at the 18th International Congress of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Dr Venter said his new task was to map the proteins which drove all chemical reactions in the body.

He said that Celera would spend heavily on new equipment to enable them to move into this new area of research called proteomics.

Proteomics involves identifying the function and inter-relationship between proteins, and their role in disease.

This new direction of research is seen as a natural extension of Celera's current work, taking it from providing genetic information to drug discovery.

"A big part of the business is the straightforward providing of information, but I'm not complacent just to do that," Dr Venter said.

Celera now aimed, he said, to work down the biochemical chain from gene to protein to help identify diagnostic tests or treatments for disease.

"We will be moving toward therapeutics but whether we ever do a clinical trial ourselves or not is another matter," he added.

Celera plans to make money by charging drug companies and researchers subscriptions to giant databases detailing the genetic make-up of humans and other organisms. As part of this goal, Dr Venter said his company expected to finish decoding the mouse genome by December.

"Comparative genomics is going to be the single most important tool going forward in analysing genomes," he said.

So far, Celera has signed up six pharmaceutical companies plus research institutions around the world, and Dr Venter said the company had committed revenues of more than $200 million.

But the scientist declined to say when he expected Celera to make a profit.

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