Firm nears completion of human genome

Forget about those Internet companies. Instead, take a look at the skyrocketing stock price of Celera Genomics, a biotech firm in Rockville, Md., that is racing to sequence the human genome a year or two before the government-funded international effort does (SN: 5/23/98, p. 334). Celera’s stock received its latest boost Jan. 10 when the company announced that it has sequenced 90 percent of the human genome and claimed it has found about 97 percent of all human genes.

Since Celera didn’t release its data publicly and has yet to submit them to a scientific journal, those impressive claims remain difficult to verify. J. Craig Venter, scientific founder of Celera, acknowledges that the firm has assembled the complete DNA sequence of only a small number of genes. Celera’s controversial genome strategy quickly produces sequences of gene fragments, but scientists must then use overlapping sequences to piece together the genome.

Celera will continue sequencing the bits of human DNA for a few months before the complex assembly process begins in full. “We will definitely be able to finish the genome this year,” asserts Venter.

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