First Person | Claire Fraser

Courtesy of Howard Hughes Medical Institute

So there's Claire Fraser, love-struck, dining with fiancé J. Craig Venter at a Marriott Hotel in the couple's then-hometown of Buffalo, NY. "We were totally in love, we only had eyes for each other," says Fraser, president of The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR) since 1998. "Midway, I look past Craig, and sitting behind [him] was Mick Jagger" in town for a concert. When Jagger left, the waitstaff descended on the table, taking whatever mementos they could.

More than 20 years later, the TIGR lady, 48, is still living with her star, whom she talks about as freely as she does herself, even though this interview is about her. But their lives are very intertwined, personally and professionally. The media attention, she says, has made their relationship stronger. "You have to develop a thick skin, or it will drive...

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