Celera Genomics (NYSE: CRA) is a business unit of the Applera Corporation that focuses on genetic sequencing and related technologies. Headquartered in Rockville, Maryland, it was established in May 1998 by the Perkin-Elmer Corporation (and was later purchased by Applera), with Dr. J. Craig Venter from The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR) as its first president. While at TIGR, Venter and Hamilton Smith led the first successful effort to sequence an entire organism's genome, that of the Haemophilus influenzae bacterium. Celera was formed for the purpose of generating and commercializing genomic information to accelerate the understanding of biological processes. Its stock is a tracking stock of Applera, along with the tracking stock of Applera's larger Applied Biosystems Group business unit.
Celera Genomics researchers were among the first to show the feasibility of the whole genome shotgun strategy for sequencing large eukaryotic genomes. The strategy was already in widespread use for smaller prokaryotic genomes, which include bacteria and archaea. This strategy contrasted with the publicly funded Human Genome Project, which used a slower but safer clone by clone sequencing strategy. Celera sequenced the human genome at a fraction of the cost of the public project (approximately $3 billion of taxpayer dollars versus about $300 million of private funding). Celera's use of the shotgun strategy spurred the public HGP to change its own strategy, leading to a rapid acceleration of the public effort.
Critics of initial efforts by Celera Genomics to hold back data from sections of genome they sequenced for commercial exploitation felt that it would retard progress in science as a whole. These critics pointed to the open access policy for gene sequences from the publicly funded Human Genome Project. Later, the company changed their policy and made their sequences available for non-commercial use, but set a maximum threshold for amount of sequence data a researcher could download at any given time.
The rise and fall of Celera as an ambitious competitor of the Human Genome Project is the main subject of the book The Genome War by James Shreeve, who takes a strong pro-Venter point of view. (He followed Venter around for two years in the process of writing the book.) A view from the public effort's side is that of Nobel laureate Sir John Sulston in his book The Common Thread: A Story of Science, Politics, Ethics and the Human Genome.
Genomes sequenced by Celera Genomics
- Drosophila melanogaster (fruit fly)
- Human genome
- Mouse genome
- Celera Genomics website
- Prepared Statement of Craig Venter of Celera Venter discusses Celera's progress in deciphering the human genome sequence and its relationship to healthcare and to the federally funded Human Genome Project.
- Applera Corporation website
- U.S. National Institutes of Health website for the Human Genome Research Institute