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Bellevue-based foundation awards $100,000 prize for genome research

The Bellevue-based Foundation For the Future has selected genome research pioneer Dr. J. Craig Venter as the 2008 winner of the Kistler Prize. The prize is awarded annually for original work that significantly increases knowledge and understanding of the relationship between the human genome and society.

Dr. Venter is being honored for a body of pioneering work in genome science.

He is chairman and president of J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI),

Rockville, MD, a not-for-profit research institute dedicated to the

advancement of the science of genomics; the understanding of its

implications for society; and communication of those results to the

scientific community, the public, and policymakers. Venter came to

prominence in scientific circles in 1991 for his novel technique for rapid gene discovery and in 1995 for the first sequencing in history of a genome of a living species, the bacteria Haemophilus influenzae. In February 2001 he and his team at Celera Genomics published the sequencing and analysis of the human genome.

Since that accomplishment, Venter went on to investigate genomes found in the atmosphere and the oceans. JCVI published in 2006 findings from ocean sampling that uncovered more than six million new genes and thousands of new protein families from organisms in seawater.

In 2007 Venter's own complete individual genome was sequenced and published in the first-ever publication of a genome sequence of an individual, covering both chromosome pairs. At present, JCVI continues work toward the creation of a fully synthetic organism.

"For nearly two decades, the name most commonly associated with genome research is that of Craig Venter," said Sesh Velamoor, Deputy Director, Programs, for the foundation. "His work, especially the recent sequencing and analysis of his individual genome, has laid the groundwork for the promise of truly individualized medicine and health care, which will greatly

impact the long-term future of humanity. Venter goes fearlessly where no one has gone before in understanding genomes in general and the human genome in particular."

Dr. Venter's work is recounted in his book A Life Decoded: My Genome: My Life (Penguin, 2007). His research, often considered controversial, has met with bitter confrontations and strenuous objections.

"It is this kind of dedication to and rigorous pursuit of scientific research, with courage and conviction despite criticism and opposition, that the Kistler Prize was created to recognize," said Walter Kistler, originator of the prize.

The Kistler Prize includes a cash award of $100,000 and a 180-gram gold medallion. It is named for Walter P. Kistler, president and benefactor of the Foundation For the Future, who will present the 2008 award to Dr. Venter in a gala banquet and ceremony in Seattle on Sept. 11.

Besides the Kistler Prize, Foundation For the Future awards the Walter P. Kistler Book Award. Other awards are the Walter P. Kistler Science Documentary Film Award and the Walter P. Kistler Science Teacher Award.

The Foundation convenes seminars, workshops, and symposia that focus on the long-term future of humanity, and it is presently developing a four-program television documentary series entitled The Next Thousand Years.

It also funds research programs, publishes scholarly works, and undertakes public awareness and education programs concerning the long-term future of humanity.

Details on its activities are available at www.futurefoundation.org.

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