In many ways, there was the world before humans had their genome sequence in hand — and the world after. Craig Venter was the mastermind of the private effort to map the genome in the late 1990s. Since then, he's tried to deliver on the promises that came with it, launching companies and ruffling feathers along the way.
- He's tweaking algae DNA to improve biofuels.
- With his newest company, Health Nucleus, he's scanning individuals' genomes for signs of disease.
- Venter and his team recently built a digital-to-biological converter (DBC) to remotely — think the other side of the world or even Mars — manufacture antibiotics, vaccines, and eventually, he says, life. It essentially turns digital code into DNA, sans humans. (More details below and MIT Technology Review offers a good overview.)
I spoke with Venter on Tuesday in Washington, D.C. Here are some lightly edited highlights from our conversation: