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The Genome War: How Craig Venter Tried to Capture the Code of Life | [James Shreeve]

The Genome War: How Craig Venter Tried to Capture the Code of Life

On May 10, 1998, biologist Craig Venter, director of the Institute for Genomic Research, announced that he was forming a private company that within three years would unravel the complete genetic code of human life, seven years before the projected finish of the U.S. government's Human Genome Project. Venter hoped that by decoding the genome ahead of schedule, he would speed up the pace of biomedical research and save the lives of thousands of people. He also hoped to become very famous and very rich.
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Publisher's Summary

The long-awaited story of the science, the business, the politics, the intrigue behind the scenes of the most ferocious competition in the history of modern science, the race to map the human genome.

On May 10, 1998, biologist Craig Venter, director of the Institute for Genomic Research, announced that he was forming a private company that within three years would unravel the complete genetic code of human life, seven years before the projected finish of the U.S. government's Human Genome Project. Venter hoped that by decoding the genome ahead of schedule, he would speed up the pace of biomedical research and save the lives of thousands of people. He also hoped to become very famous and very rich. Calling his company Celera (from the Latin for "speed"), he assembled a small group of scientists in an empty building in Rockville, Maryland, and set to work.

At the same time, the leaders of the government program, under the direction of Francis Collins, head of the National Human Genome Research Institute at the National Institutes of Health, began to mobilize an unexpectedly unified effort to beat Venter to the prize, knowledge that had the potential to revolutionize medicine and society.

The stage was set for one of the most thrilling, and important, dramas in the history of science. The Genome War is the definitive account of that drama: the race for the greatest prize biology has had to offer, told by a writer with exclusive access to Venter's operation from start to finish. It is also the story of how one man's ambition created a scientific Camelot where, for a moment, it seemed that the competing interests of pure science and commercial profit might be gloriously reconciled, and the national repercussions that resulted when that dream went awry.

©2004 James Shreeve; (P)2004 Books on Tape, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"Shreeve delivers commendably clear discourse on techno-molecular obstacles to sequencing DNA, topped with the vivid drama of Celera's mastery of the problems it encountered in doing so. Shreeve's intimate book is a crucial addition to the history of a major scientific fracas." (Booklist)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.1 (162 )
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4.0 (31 )
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4.2 (28 )
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  •  
    Neil Palmyra, VA, USA 02-24-04
    Neil Palmyra, VA, USA 02-24-04
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "DNA/Microbiology 101"

    The book covers very the discovery and mapping of the human DNA sequence back to Mendel. I give it a 4/5 because it repeats its scientific facts several times during the story telling you as if it was the first time the item was mentioned, this caused it to drag.

    If it were fiction, I would accuse it of being to political/emotionally charged? It?s stunning how far the government sector went in funding and rhetoric to ?win? the DNA sequence. It sheds light on the human side of science and discovery, it is unfortunate what that light reveals is greed.

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    D. Keith Dixfield, ME USA 02-16-04
    D. Keith Dixfield, ME USA 02-16-04 Member Since 2003
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    "Business meets biology meets politics"

    An entralling account of genome research which takes an admirably impartial view towards the different forces (and people) that clash in this story. This book should be of interest to a wide variety of people including those wondering how the technological revolutions discussed here will work out in a more historical perspective. HIghly recommended!

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Eric Berger Houston, TX 06-18-06
    Eric Berger Houston, TX 06-18-06 Member Since 2005
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    "Great account of the Great Race"

    The author had fantastic access to Craig Venter for the writing of this book, and once you get a few chapters in it's hard to put down. A must read for anyone interested in the biggest science story in recent years, and a semi-biography of one of the most inventive, important scientists of our day, Venter.

    Highly recommended. Best or the second-best book I have ever gotten from Audible (Washington's Crossing is the other.)

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tej Cupertino, CA, USA 09-05-07
    Tej Cupertino, CA, USA 09-05-07
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    "Mini Bio Mini Story"

    Well written, well read.. gets you thru the whirlwind world that was Celera... Good listen!.
    The author, however, spends too much time describing faces, body contours and clothing choices of the players in this real story. Both sides of the battle are covered failry well.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Geoffrey Lincoln, RI, USA 05-08-05
    Geoffrey Lincoln, RI, USA 05-08-05
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    "Great book for anyone interested in the industry"

    Written in a way that doesn't require you to be a Doctor to understand, the book gives an interesting glimpse into the science of genomics, the personalities that have shaped it, and the potential impact on humankind. The author really does a great job at making the book story-like rather than textbook-like, which makes the listen quite enjoyable and entertaining.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    M Burlingame, CA, United States 05-23-09
    M Burlingame, CA, United States 05-23-09 Member Since 2006
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    "A great story, well told"

    "The Genome War" is the fascinating story of the race to sequence the human genome. Shreeve tells it perfectly, describing the principal players, reviewing the history and the science, covering the politics and the business. It "reads" like a crime novel, with similes right out of Raymond Chandler and narrative devices out of Elmore Leonard. The reader was perfect too.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    MS Madison, MS, United States 09-01-04
    MS Madison, MS, United States 09-01-04
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    "Entertaining and educational"

    Great book. Not too technical. Entertaining and engaging.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Laurie East Millstone, NJ, United States 05-28-04
    Laurie East Millstone, NJ, United States 05-28-04 Member Since 2004
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    "Fascinating but repetitive."

    As a computer scientist in the trenches of the Genome Project, I found this a fascinating tale of personalities and science. Mr. Shreeve is a wonderful writer with a particular gift for metaphor, but I did find the book quite repetitive in its descriptions of the shotgun method of sequencing and the rancor between Celera and the government effort. I have listened to dozens of unabridged books and this is the first time I wish I had chosen the abridged version.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Philip Kapelle, Netherlands 09-07-09
    Philip Kapelle, Netherlands 09-07-09 Member Since 2005
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    "Fascinating account of a biological breakthrough"

    "The Genome War" is a fascinating audiobook on the race to sequence the human genome. James Shreeve has clearly done a lot of research and countless interviews to get the full story of the race to sequence and compile the human genome from all angles, and does an excellent job providing a background on the basics of genomics. The tale is reminiscent of a Shakespearean royal tragedy, with egos, pride, ambition, deception and greed playing a major role. Having worked in the life science industry, this was an intriguing story for me to hear. Even though the "Genome War" took place in the late 90's and very early part of this decade, the story is still very relevant today: Francis Collins is now the head of the NIH, and allegedly the purchase decisions of sequencers at some institutes are still based on "which side you were on" during the "Genome War". There are some downsides to the book: unclear style at the start (combination of flashbacks and chronological account), and an overload of biographical introductions of any possible player in the story (a description of the key protagonists would have been sufficient). It is probably advisable to choose the 6 hour abridged version over this 14 (!) hour unabridged version.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Anthony Plano, TX, USA 05-18-04
    Anthony Plano, TX, USA 05-18-04 Member Since 2003
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    "An Excellent and Informative book"

    You learn not only about the science of the human genome but you learn about the competition that went on between the private sector and government funded projects. I found the story of Dr. Venter very interesting. After listening to this audio book I am eager to learn of new discoveries and new drugs that are made possible by the mapping of the human genome. Guess I'll have to get a subscription to Scientific American now.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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