Necessity Still Breeds Ingenuity - Archive of SQUALL MAGAZINE 1992-2006

Get Ye Behind Us Celera

Fresh from providing an alternative take on the Seattle WTO talks for Channel Four News, comedian Rob Newman returned to the UK with something else on his mind.

Squall Download 3, March/April 2000, pg. 13.


Two human­genome mapping projects are involved in a bigger head­to­head than the Space Race. The joint UK/German/Japanese project in a Cambridge lab versus its bastard child, Celera at the Incyte Institute in Rockville, Maryland. If Celera finish first, the US private sector will ‘own’ the patents on human beings, whereas if the Cambridge crew finish first the research will be at the free disposal of medical science. At the moment the Cambridge lab publishes its interim material on the web for free, whereas Celera keep their work to themselves. If Celera finish first then their power over medicine and healthcare will be a catastrophe for about six billion people. All indications are that Celera will win because, as their chief Carl Vintner cheerfully admits, they are nicking all the Cambridgeshire lab results off the net and so by­passing all the really difficult stuff. “Most of our work is just correlation,” says Vintner.

London calling to SQUALL readers in the USA. Here’s a few direct­action ideas for any of you who can get to Rockville, Maryland.

The Cambridge lab results freely published on the net are simple permutation lists of adenine, guanine, cytosine and thymine. The ‘map’ is just pages and pages which read like this: AAT/GTC/TTA/CGG/TGG/CCG

Knowing these codes are being downloaded by Celera, I suspect some hacktivists may wish to add their own research finding to the publicly posted results before Celera get their hands on them. If, for example, a helpful hacktivist added this: ACA/ACA/GAA/AGA then the Celera project might find they have successfully mapped the guitar­chord genome for ‘Complete Control’ by The Clash.

A de-Celera-te campaign may enjoy surprising popular support from Maryland citizens themselves. Maryland State was just about to legally dis­associate itself from US friendliness with the Nigerian military dictatorship, when the Clinton administration sent State Department officials to their town hall to tell them their proposed law was ­ can you guess, readers? ­ in violation of WTO rules. There is anger in the home of the chocolate chip cookie.