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Low-Cost Sequencing Getting Closer and Closer

A very interesting article in the New Scientist published last week by Peter Aldhous examines the approach of affordable whole-genome sequencing. The article mentions 23andme, the recently published genomes of James Watson and J. Craig Venter, and the Personal Genome Project.

“Thanks to the advances in sequencing technology, that might be done for as little as $1000 per person. “DNA chips”, meanwhile, can scan your genome for common “spelling mistakes” for just a few hundred dollars. At that price, the era of personalised genomics is already dawning. “This is the year,” claims [Dr. George] Church.”

Mr. Aldhous’ article doesn’t shy away from the hard stuff either. Although I could potentially obtain my entire genomic sequence if I had $1 million lying around, very little of the information would be interpretable. We still have so very much to learn about our DNA. A great quote comes from Michael Egholm of 454 Life Sciences:

“We’re going to have routine genome sequencing long before physicians know how to make any sense of it.”

Interestingly, Dr. Church believes that people will have at least their protein-sequencing regions sequenced before the $1000 genome is available, at which time they will all “upgrade.” Although I certainly don’t have Dr. Church’s expertise, I’ve always thought that the amount of time between those two events (affordable genome “sampling” and affordable whole-genome sequencing) will be so short that there will be few people who require an upgrade.

HT: Hsien at Eye on DNA.

Blaine Bettinger

Intellectual property attorney, genealogist, and author of The Genetic Genealogist since 2007

4 Comments

  1. I hope people have been thinking about the organizational nightmare of all that genetic data pouring out of the pipeline. I know I have…. ;)

  2. I don’t think it will take long before someone more eccentric decides to sequence his genome just for the fun of having it on paper (probably on CD, but ok). After all there are companies already sequencing small stretches of DNA or doing a basic restriction analysis of a very limited area and selling the results as “personal art”. Just needs to be upscaled.

  3. Advances in processing power and new technologies in distributed computing are bringing this closer every year. New idea for a company – something like that Lifelock thing that protects your identity, but for your DNA? Someone will figure out how to monetize this stuff, no doubt. Chilling!

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