Converse's Reviews > A Life Decoded: My Genome---My Life

A Life Decoded by J. Craig Venter
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's review
Jun 27, 11

bookshelves: biography, autobiography, business, non-fiction
Read in June, 2011

Venter led one of the efforts to sequence the human genome. I was surprised to learn that his interest in biology and medicine grew out of his experiences as a Navy corpsman in a hospital in Vientman. His original scientific interests in the 1970s. focused on the biochemistry of adrenaline; his move into genetics was an outgrowth of this interest. The narrative has the most detail in covering his Vietnam experiences, and then his experiences in competing with government-funded human genome project. His account of the latter reinforces my belief that prominent people tend to be fixated about how they are portrayed in the media. As I understand it, the approach his team took to sequencing and then putting back together the human genome differed substantially from that taken by the government-funded consortium. I also came away wondering if, for both teams, the people who really deserved the credit were the engineers who designed automated sequencing machines and the programmers who wrote the software to put the sequenced DNA back in the proper order, as opposed to any of the biologists or MDs in charge of the projects. As for the relative merits of both sides approach to deciphering the human genome, I cannot decide without reading the memoirs of those on the government side, such as Francis Collins. I found it hard to follow the technical details with the audiobook, probably a text sould be a better choice for a memoir of this type.
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