According to Venter, siphoning off on mid-town New York City air and amplifying the DNA of the fungi, bacteria and viruses it contains is the only way to uncover the mysteries of airborne microbial life, as only 1% of the microbes in the air can be identified by growing cultures in the lab.
The project may aid homeland security. Comparing an air sample taken during a suspected bioterror attack to the normal genetic "fingerprint" of the air could confirm or rule out the presence of dangerous microbes.
Venter has deployed two clandestine filters so far, one from the roof of a building, the other from inside an office air circulation system. Each gathers 1400 cubic metres of air per day.