Venter Institute prepping for construction next to Allen Field begins

By Dave Schwab

Staff Writer

Those of you who’ve seen new construction next to La Jolla's Allen Field and wondered what it was can wonder no more: It’s work beginning on the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) building project.

The new, carbon-neutral laboratory facility at the corner of Torrey Pines Road where it meets La Jolla Village Drive/North Torrey Pines Road on the UCSD campus would make it the first laboratory building of its kind in the United States and will house approximately 125 staff and scientists, according to institute officials.

“We received UC Regents' approval for the project on Jan. 19 and have had the appropriate permits, etc. from the Coastal Commission and the city,” said JCVI spokeswoman Heather Kowalski. “We broke ground on April 7, put up a fence, installed storm water protection measures and are proceeding. However, we did run into some issues in that we discovered a storm sewer which must now be dealt with.“

Kowalski added there were some other issues that have turned up regarding nesting gnatcatchers and the need to reroute utilities.

“These things all mean we are slowed somewhat in the process but we expect to begin excavation this summer,” she said. “When we have all these issues successfully dealt with it is our plan to make an official announcement about the project with details on the building and to hold an official groundbreaking ceremony.”

Venter and his research teams pioneered genomic research, from developing new DNA sequencing technology to sequencing the first “free living organism,” and ultimately being the first to sequence and analyze the human genome in 2001. They have continued to expand their horizons. Their “global ocean sampling expedition uncovered more than 6 million new genes and thousands of new protein families from organisms found in sea water,” according to the website

They are also doing work in the fields of infectious diseases, plant genomics, synthetic biology and bioengineering as well has having a policy center and education programs for students at all levels. Among JCVI’s latest efforts is employing the synthetic bacterial cell they created to design new sources of biofuels.

The institute is a not-for-profit genomic research organization with about 400 staff and scientists in 20,000 square feet of lab and office space in La Jolla and Rockville, Md.,



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