October 9, 2009

J. Craig Venter Cancels Algae Summit Keynote for White House Ceremony

You always hate to see a keynote speaker pull out of a major conference attracting wide attention, especially when the conference is focused on a hot emerging field like algae-based technologies and the speaker is J. Craig Venter, the renowned human genome pioneer and founding CEO of San Diego’s Synthetic Genomics.

The brash Venter, who rarely appears in public these days, has gained even higher visibility since mid-July, when he announced Synthetic Genomics has a new partnership with ExxonMobile, which plans to invest $600 million to develop algae-derived biofuels.

At least he has a good excuse.

Instead of speaking to the masses attending the 3rd Annual Algae Biomass Summit in downtown San Diego, Venter will be attending a White House ceremony, where he is receiving a National Medal of Science from President Obama. A recent statement issued by the J. Craig Venter Institute says the medal is intended to recognize Venter’s dedication to “the advancement of the science of genomics, his contributions to the understanding of its implications for society, and his commitment to the clear communication of information to the scientific community, the public, and policymakers.” The medal is the highest scientific honor bestowed by the U.S. government.

Venter’s replacement as keynote speaker Wednesday is Paul Roessler, Synthetic Genomics’ vice president for renewable fuels and chemicals.

Conference organizers also announced last week that Jacque Beaudry-Losique, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Renewable Energy of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, will be the luncheon keynote speaker on Thursday. The three-day conference at the San Diego Marriott Hotel & Marina ends Friday.

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