Craig Venter is not a man to balk at breaking a few eggs to make a scientific omelette. The maverick American biologist is best known for challenging his brightest peers to a breakneck race to decipher the human genome.
Since then he has attempted to patent artificial microbes, has reconstructed people’s faces from their DNA and has combed mankind’s genetic library in search of the secret of longevity.
Now he is embroiled in what could be his biggest controversy. A life-extension company Dr Venter set up four years ago is suing his institute over allegations that he pilfered its trade secrets, poached its staff and sought to lure away its investors.
In 2014 Dr Venter and two colleagues founded Human Longevity, Inc (HLI), which trawled through the newfound arsenal of genetic data for insights that could be used to treat diseases associated with ageing.
The venture has rapidly turned sour. [Recently] HLI’s lawyers filed a complaint seeking unspecified damages from Dr Venter’s San Diego-based non-profit organisation, the J Craig Venter Institute, alleging among other things that he used a company laptop to “misappropriate trade secrets”.
The J Craig Venter Institute dismissed the claims as “baseless, without merit and [marred by] numerous factual errors.
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