The Genome War: How Craig Venter Tried to Capture the Code of Life and Save the World

Abridged Audiobook

Written By: James Shreeve

Narrated By: Erik Singer

Publisher: Random House (Audio)

Date: February 2004

Duration: 6 hours 0 minutes


The long-awaited story of the science, the business, the politics, the intrigue behind the scenes of the most ferocious competition in the history of modern science—the race to map the human genome.
On May 10, 1998, biologist Craig Venter, director of the Institute for Genomic Research, announced that he was forming a private company that within three years would unravel the complete genetic code of human life—seven years before the projected finish of the U.S. government’s Human Genome Project. Venter hoped that by decoding the genome ahead of schedule, he would speed up the pace of biomedical research and save the lives of thousands of people. He also hoped to become very famous and very rich. Calling his company Celera (from the Latin for “speed”), he assembled a small group of scientists in an empty building in Rockville, Maryland, and set to work.
At the same time, the leaders of the government program, under the direction of Francis Collins, head of the National Human Genome Research Institute at the National Institutes of Health, began to mobilize an unexpectedly unified effort to beat Venter to the prize—knowledge that had the potential to revolutionize medicine and society.

The stage was set for one of the most thrilling—and important—dramas in the history of science. The Genome War is the definitive account of that drama—the race for the greatest prize biology has had to offer, told by a writer with exclusive access to Venter’s operation from start to finish. It is also the story of how one man’s ambition created a scientific Camelot where, for a moment, it seemed that the competing interests of pure science and commercial profit might be gloriously reconciled—and the national repercussions that resulted when that dream went awry.

From the Hardcover edition.


  • Anonymous

    I'm not sure I'll believe a mass media scientific press release ever again. When Ventnor says "we've mapped the genome" - there's some fudging of the definition of mapped going on. Very interesting insight into the politics of the science community. Find out who the real heroes are.

  • Daparoye

    I found this book VERY BORING! It goes in depth into the science of mapping the human genome. No one is likeable and the reader was monotone (who wouldn't be with this boring stuff?). After all this I just felt like , "Who cares." I hated it.

  • John Schlosser

    Fast paced and engaging, The Genome War is a picture of dueling egos and the struggle between capitalism vs academia--all against a backdrop of life-saving science. It is written from the perspective of Craig Venter, the entrepreneurial biologist. While he is not painted as a perfect guy, I would rather James Shreeve had balanced his story by saying more about the public advantages of Venter losing the race--ie., keeping the genome patents and discoveries cleanly and completely in the public domain. Even so, the book's well worth a listen.

  • Anonymous

    At times this account of the race to finish the human genome project was very dry, and it was very scientific. But the technology and the story were fascinating. It was, at times, difficult to comprehend during my very early morning commute.

Genome War: How Craig Venter Tried to Capture the Code of Life and Save the World

by James Shreeve

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Genome War: How Craig Venter Tried to Capture the Code of Life and Save the World, James Shreeve