Celera Genomics

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Celera Corporation (NASDAQCRA) was formerly a business unit of the Applera Corporation, but was spun off in July 2008 to become an independent publicly traded company. Celera focuses on genetic sequencing and related technologies.



Originally headquartered in Rockville, Maryland (relocated to Alameda, California), it was established in May 1998 by PE Corporation (later renamed to 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 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. However, it must be noted that a significant portion of the human genome had already been sequenced when Celera entered the field, and thus Celera did not incur any costs with obtaining the existing data, which was freely available to the public from GenBank. 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 that 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, 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. Anthropologist Paul Rabinow also based his 2005 book A Machine to Make a Future on Celera.

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