SPIEGEL: So you don't consider Collins to be a true scientist?A good administrator, in my estimation, for managing the behemoth government run genome project, but not the gee wiz scientist who cracked the genome that everyone seems to think he is. There's this tendency to introduce him as 'the man who sequenced the human genome.' What bothers me the worst is that he rarely, in my experiences, corrects this mistake.
Venter: Let's just say he's a government administrator.
This is how the interview starts, and it only gets better and better:
SPIEGEL: Mr. Venter, when the elite among gene researchers undertook the decoding of the human genome, you were their greatest enemy. They called you "Frankenstein," "blood sucker," "Darth Venter" and even "asshole." Why do you attract so much hostility?I strongly encourage you to read the full thing. Der Spiegel did a bang-up good job on this interview!
Venter: Well, nobody likes to be beaten -- by superior intelligence, planning and technology. That gets people upset.
SPIEGEL: Every area of science is competitive. But it doesn't lead to that kind of hostility in all areas.
Venter: The human genome project was completely different, it was supposed to be the biggest thing in the history of biological sciences. Billions in government funding for a single project -- we had never seen anything like that before in biology. And then a single person comes along and beats scientists who have been working on it for years. It is no wonder they didn't like that.
SPIEGEL: Wasn't it more the case that your opponents were afraid that you, as a profit-oriented entrepreneur, would make the human genome your own private property?
Venter: That is totally absurd; and you know it. Initially, Francis Collins and the other people on the Human Genome Project claimed that my methods would never work. When they started to realize that they were wrong, they began personal attacks against me and made up these things about the ownership of the genome. It was all absurd.