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Internationally renowned genomic researcher J. Craig Venter to be keynote speaker at dedication of Syracuse University's Life Sciences Complex on Nov. 7

May 06, 2008

Judy Holmes
(315) 443-2201

Judy Holmes

J. Craig Venter, a pioneer in decoding the human genome, will be the keynote speaker at the dedication of Syracuse University's Life Sciences Complex Nov. 7. Venter's address will highlight a daylong celebration that will include building tours, laboratory demonstrations and conversations about some of the most salient issues in the life sciences and their effects on the living world. The new complex, designed to promote interdisciplinary scientific research and education, will become a vital instructional facility, a major research center, a training ground for future scientists and a place of discovery.

"We are thrilled to host this innovative and creative scientist who is internationally renowned for expanding the boundaries of genomic research," says Cathryn R. Newton, dean of SU's College of Arts and Sciences. "Craig Venter's multidisciplinary approach to the science of genomics exemplifies the spirit of the life sciences at SU. This imaginative new building -- with its vibrant, interdisciplinary scientific themes and central atrium with café -- gives physical form to that spirit. It will soon become the place on the eastern edge of campus where people connect and share ideas in beautiful public spaces, classrooms and laboratories, and leave with an expanded sense of the possibilities."

Venter was recently appointed visiting scholar in Harvard University's Origins of Life Initiative, an interdisciplinary center established to study everything from planet formation and detection to the origin and early evolution of life. His autobiography, "A Life Decoded: My Genome, My Life" (Viking), was published in October 2007.

For more than two decades, Venter and his research teams have been pioneers in genomic research. In 1998, he and his former company, Celera Genomics, raced with the National Institutes of Health to decode the human genome. Venter used an accelerated genome sequencing process developed at his Maryland-based Institute for Genomic Research. The celebrated contest was declared a tie in late 2000, and the first human genome was published in February 2001. In 2007, Venter and his team published the first sequence of the human genome for both chromosome pairs of a single individual. The earlier versions of the human genome are a mosaic of DNA sequences from various donors. Venter is the sole donor for the new genome sequence.

Over the past three years, Venter and his teams developed the first synthetic bacterial genome and a methodology to transplant chromosomes, which enables researchers to transform one type of bacteria into another. The next step in this synthetic biology research, Venter says, is to create the first synthetic living organism.

Venter's teams are also working to create a large-scale catalog of all the genes on Earth, the first step of which was to apply Venter's rapid genome sequencing process to a search for new microscopic ocean species. A three-year global ocean sampling expedition yielded the discovery of more than six million new genes and thousands of microscopic species.

Venter is founder and president of the J. Craig Venter Institute (JVCI), a not-for-profit research institute dedicated to the advancement of the science of genomics; the understanding of its implications for society; and the communication of results to the scientific community, the public and policy makers. The multidisciplinary institute houses about 400 scientists and staff with expertise in human and evolutionary biology, genetics, bioinformatics/informatics, information technology, DNA sequencing, genomic and environmental policy research, and public education in science and science policy. JVCI resulted from the merger of Venter-founded legacy organizations -- the Institute for Genomic Research, the Center for the Advancement of Genomics, the Institute for Biological Energy Alternatives, the Joint Technology Center and the J. Craig Venter Science Foundation.

SU's 230,000-square-foot Life Sciences Complex, designed by Ellenzweig Associates of Cambridge, Mass., is the largest building project in the University's history. The complex consolidates classroom and laboratory instructional space for biochemistry, biology and chemistry. For the first time, the entire biology department will be in one building, along with the chemistry department. Both departments are in SU's College of Arts and Sciences. The $6 million Milton Atrium connects the Life Sciences Complex to the Center for Science and Technology. The atrium was made possible by a generous gift from SU alumni Jack and Laura Milton, both from the Class of 1951. Jack Milton is a member of the University's Board of Trustees. The six-story Life Sciences Complex has two wings in an L-shaped configuration. The research wing houses biology research laboratories, conference rooms and faculty offices. The teaching wing includes biochemistry, biology and chemistry teaching labs, lecture halls and research greenhouses.

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