The Business of Competition

While Craig Venter could be considered a morally repugnant man for some of his actions (using his own DNA in Celera’s research into the human genome, using the government’s decoded DNA in his project, etc), I like to think that he was also a catalytic force in the areas of genetic research. He has a personality that maybe only a speed boat-racing mom could love: competitive, remorseless, and a little too driven.

In a time when gene sequencing was in its infancy, he proclaimed that he could sequence the entirety of the human genome in 2 years. The government project, on the other hand had given the sequencing time line to be 15 years. With Venter’s announcement, Francis Collins somehow managed to cut 5 years off the timeline. How? But, more importantly, why did it take an outside source for the government to speed itself up?

One of the main reasons why The Human Genome project was to be so important was its role in predicting, preventing, and diagnosing diseases in humans. And the government predicted that it would take 15 years. Fifteen years before we could see the secrets of our genome and start to help our future generations. So, why did it take a greedy, competitive businessman to spur the government/scientific community to realize that gene sequencing could be done more efficiently?

Now, I’m not saying that I like Craig Venter. BUT, I can say that sometimes we need people like him to get us going. Living in a utopian society, this wouldn’t be an issue. Everyone would always be on point, efficient, and looking for new ways to innovate. But, living in this society, we need capitalism and competition as a way to check ourselves.

I guess what I’m saying is that, sometimes you need to be the change you want to see, and sometimes….you have to be a bit of a villain to see that change. Though I’m not too sure that that’s what Craig Venter was thinking when he decided to go rogue and set up Celera.

~Sophie

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~ by nerdcamper on January 12, 2014.

2 Responses to “The Business of Competition”

  1. As the decline of the USPS has demonstrated, monopolies — especially governmental ones — often lead to stagnation. However, I can’t help but feel that the greedy, remorseless spirit in which Venter founded Celera was unnecessary, and Celera’s vying with the government seemed more like unhealthy competition rather than healthy. Yes, they cut five years off of the genome sequencing timeline — but did Venter have to be a “villain” in order to get those results? I think that he could have encouraged the competition with the government (and thus driven his team to get great results) without resorting to morally repugnant actions like lying about whose DNA Celera was sequencing.

  2. It’s interesting to read into the actions of the scientists themselves throughout the process of sequencing the human genome. What exactly was Craig Venter’s motivation? It could have easily been greed for money or credit, or the hope of power in the form of scientific discovery. I like to believe he was just aggressively curious. I think this is a natural reaction one we start decoding ourselves. This is the approach to science we need to get anywhere, moral or not.

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