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Web Date: March 11, 2014

Craig Venter Tackles Aging

Genomics: Entrepreneur launches Human Longevity Inc. with goal of building a comprehensive genome, microbiome, and phenotype database
Department: Business
Keywords: genomics, pharmaceuticals, biotech, microbiome, aging

Biotech entrepreneur J. Craig Venter, who famously competed with the U.S. government to sequence the first human genome, has launched Human Longevity Inc., a firm with ambitions to solve the problems of aging, starting with cancer. Venter will begin with $70 million and the lofty goal of creating the world’s most comprehensive genome, microbiome, and phenotype database.

That genomic data will be licensed to others as well as used for internal drug discovery efforts. HLI has an agreement under which every patient at the University of California, San Diego, Moores Cancer Center will have the option to have their genome, microbiome, and tumor sequenced and analyzed. The hope is to quickly expand to other clinical centers.

The cost of sequencing a human genome has dropped from $100 million in 2001, when Venter and government scientists went head-to-head, to around $1,000 using the newest sequencing system from Illumina. A hefty chunk of HLI’s initial financing went toward purchasing two of the Illumina systems.

Industry experts are greeting Venter’s latest venture cautiously, pointing out that making money from genomic data eluded his earlier firm, Celera Genomics.

Moreover, “Managing the multi-omics data and extracting meaning, especially predictive models, is still very much an emerging area of research,” says Rob Knight, a University of Colorado biochemist who uses high-throughput sequencing to study the microbiome. In the data deluge, Knight says, it can be “difficult to find the signal amidst all the noise.”

 
Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
Copyright © American Chemical Society