9 May 2005
Celera Genomics, the private company that released details of the human genome sequence simultaneously with the publicly funded Human Genome Project (HGP), has announced that their genome database subscription business will be terminated. The company, originally set up by the scientist Dr Craig Venter, was the subject of major controversy as it planned to sell human genome information; critics argued that it was unethical not to place such important data in the public domain. The Celera Discovery System reportedly had around 25 corporate and 200 academic subscribers at its peak (see New York Times report), but profits from the venture were much lower than originally anticipated, largely due to the freely available HGP data; in recent years the company has moved to focus on developing novel therapeutics instead.
30 billion base pairs of Celera data on human, rat and mouse genome sequences will now be made available for public access from July 2005 via the National Center for Biotechnology Information, although some proprietary data that is being used for the development of novel diagnostics will be retained. Dr Francis Collins, Director of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), which led the international HGP, welcomed the move as a "wonderfully generous contribution" and a "strong endorsement of this kind of information ultimately being accessible to anybody". The animal genomes will be of particular value to the research community, because they are different strains from those sequenced by public sector initiatives, and the human data will useful for the further validation of HGP data.