Craig Venter has never been reluctant to credit himself for a lead role in sequencing the human genome. And he's certainly not the least bit shy about placing a high value on the overall significance of the work.
"I think it's far more important than walking on the Moon; not much has happened since walking on the Moon," he tells the BBC on the tenth anniversary of the grand achievement, which took 2,000 scientists more than 10 years and $2.7 billion to accomplish.
The 10th anniversary of sequencing has spawned a veritable cottage industry of reports about the accomplishments, or lack of them, that followed the history-making event. Some see big progress, with sequencing costs falling closer and closer to the goal of $1,000 or less. Others see only tiny progress by way of actual new drugs that key off the genetic information we've gleaned.
"It's fair to say that most people have not yet had the experience of having their personal medical care directly affected by the sequencing of the human genome," says NIH chief Francis Collins, a leading expert in the field. "So while one might argue that the consequences have not come across in the first 10 years in the most dramatic form that some predictors put forward in the year 2000, I think the predictions ... were probably a bit overblown."
Mike Stratton, director of the Sanger Institute, though, says the glass is more than half full. "It has taken (only) eight years for a drug to be developed ... then to be put into clinical trials and to be shown to work," he told Reuters. "And it works in a cancer that was otherwise untreatable. That's an illustration of what is possible."