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Hype at the Speed of Light
on September 5, 2014
A better title for this book would be "Hype at the Speed of Light". Venter may have the largest ego on the planet, which he celebrates with unceasing self-congratulation. Venter has, indeed, made significant strides in DNA technology; his assembly (not synthesis) of the entire chromosome of a bacterium and his insertion of this very fragile molecule into a living bacterial cell is a technological tour de force but is by no stretch of the imagination the creation of "synthetic life" as Venter would have us believe. And his expenditure of millions of dollars and the time and efforts of a large team of helpers and colleagues during seven full years, can have been undertaken only with the hope of winning a Nobel Prize - which this work assuredly does not deserve. Nevertheless, Venter extolls with some clarity a bright future for genetic engineering and the book is worth reading for anyone interested in this area - though considerable familiarity with molecular genetics is unfortunately necessary. For my full review, see The Times Literary Supplement for May 9, 2014.