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Google, Venter Mum on Collaboration Reports

By Juan Carlos Perez IDG News Service

Feb 15, 2006 | Google and the J. Craig Venter Institute are playing down highly publicized reports of a collaboration reported in a recently published book.

David Vise and Mark Malseed wrote in The Google Story, published in November, that Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page and genome sequencer J. Craig Venter had started collaborating in the area of genetics research in early 2005.

However, asked to comment on those plans, both Google and the Venter Institute remained tight-lipped.

“Google has been exploring applications of our technologies to various scientific fields, including biology. We have no products to announce or information to share at this time,” a Google spokesman wrote via e-mail.

“At the Venter Institute, there isn’t a project under way of that nature that ran in David Vise’s book, so we don’t have anything to contribute at this time,” said an institute spokeswoman.

Catalogue of Genes
The concluding chapter of The Google Story is devoted to the Google founders’ “ambitious long-term plans for Google’s expansion into the fields of biology and genetics and the fusion of science, medicine, and technology.”

Vise recounts discussions that both Brin and Page held with Venter in 2005 and that eventually led to Google making computing resources and engineers available to Venter. Venter began discussing possible areas of collaboration with Brin, who has a long-standing interest in molecular biology, over dinner in February 2005. (Other guests that evening included Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, and Ryan Phelan, CEO of DNA Direct.) Two months later, Page invited Venter to join him on the board of the X Prize Foundation.

“We need to use the largest computers in the world,” Venter told the authors. “Larry and Sergey have been excited about our work and about giving us access to their computers and their algorithm guys and scientists to improve the process of analyzing data.”

Venter described the collaboration’s focus as generating “a gene catalogue to characterize all the genes on the planet and understand their evolutionary development.”

“People will be able to log on to a Google site using search capacities and have the ability to understand things about themselves as they change in real time,” Venter is quoted in Vise's book. “Google has empowered individuals to do searches and get information and have things in seconds at their fingertips. Where is that more important than understanding our own biology and its connection to disease and behavior? With Google, you will be able to get an understanding of your own genes. Google has the capacity to do all of this... [Brin and Page] are the right people to undertake this.”

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