Decoding Our DNA

Craig Venter vs the Human Genome Project

From the Series Scientific Rivalries and Scandals

  • Interest Level: Grade 6 - Grade 12
  • Reading Level: Grade 8

In the mid-1980s, some geneticists proposed a daring project to sequence the human genome. That meant figuring out the exact order of the three billion chemical pairs that make up human DNA. Sequencing the human genome could help scientists understand how our bodies work and help doctors diagnose, treat, and prevent certain diseases.

The Human Genome Project launched in 1990, with scientists around the world collaborating on the research. They worked slowly and methodically, trying to produce the most accurate information possible. By 1991 one of these scientists, Craig Venter, became fed up with the HGP’s slow pace. He challenged the HGP to move faster and started his own company to compete with the HGP.

Racing neck and neck, the two organizations reached their goal years ahead of schedule. But the challenge also led to a bitter public argument, especially over who could use the sequence and how. This book reveals how ambition, persistence, ego, greed, and principle combined—often with explosive results—in the quest to decode our DNA.

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Interest Level Grade 6 - Grade 12
Reading Level Grade 8
Genre Science, Young Adult
Publisher Lerner Publishing Group
Imprint Twenty-First Century Books ™
Language English
Publication Date 2012-08-01
Reading Counts! Level 9.6
Text Type Narrative Nonfiction
BISACS YAN050110, YAN050010, YAN050000
Dewey 611'.0181663
Graphics 1-color illustrations
Lexile 1070
ATOS Reading Level 8.5
Accelerated Reader® Quiz 156057
Accelerated Reader® Points 2.0
Features Bibliography/further reading, Charts/Graphs/Diagrams, Glossary, Index, Photo captions, Reviewed, Sidebars, Source notes, Teaching Guides, and eSource

Author: Karen Gunnison Ballen

Karen Ballen has a bachelor's degree from Kalamazoo College in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and a doctoral degree from the University of Minnesota. She taught biology at a small college in Minnesota before turning to children's writing. She lives in Minnesota with her husband and children. She is the author of Seven Wonders of Medicine.

Lerner eSource™ offers free digital teaching and learning resources, including Common Core State Standards (CCSS) teaching guides. These guides, created by classroom teachers, offer short lessons and writing exercises that give students specific instruction and practice using Common Core skills and strategies. Lerner eSource also provides additional resources including online activities, downloadable/printable graphic organizers, and additional educational materials that would also support Common Core instruction. Download, share, pin, print, and save as many of these free resources as you like!

Scientific Rivalries and Scandals

Bribery. Theft. Betrayals and lifelong feuds. Intense competition leading to bitter disputes has characterized the relationships among some of the world’s greatest scientific innovators. This one-of-a-kind series combines math, science, history, and biography to expose the rivalries… View available downloads →


Library Media Connection

“The books are short and full of illustrations; they explore topics students find interesting and provide facts and details enough to give readers a solid beginning.” —Library Media Connection


“Ballen clearly lays out both sides of the issues as well as the story’s eventual resolution.” —Booklist

School Library Journal, Series Made Simple

“These books showcase major scientific developments and the brutal competition behind the scenes. They are highly engaging accounts of researchers resorting to cheap shots, spying, and double crossing to take credit for pivotal discoveries. But they are also disturbing documentation of how ego can trump the greater good… Written cleanly and fluidly, these titles let the drama and occasional absurdity of the players’ actions speak for themselves.” —School Library Journal, Series Made Simple