NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

THE RACE TO READ GENOMES ON A SHOESTRING

February 12, 2008

A person wanting to know his or her complete genetic blueprint can already have it done -- for $350,000.  But personal genome readouts could become affordable to the rest of us soon, says the New York Times.

Consider:

  • Pacific Biosciences - or PacBio -- has been developing a DNA sequencing machine that within a few years might be able to unravel an individual's entire genome in minutes, for less than $1,000.
  • If the cost of sequencing a human genome can drop to $1,000 or below, experts say it would start to become feasible to document people's DNA makeup to tell what diseases they might be at risk for, or what medicines would work best for them.
  • A DNA genome sequence might become part of each newborn's medical work-up, while sequencing might help doctors look for ways to attack cancer patients' tumors.

To spur such advances, the federal government has awarded about 35 grants totaling $56 million to companies and universities for development of technology that could put the $1,000 genome sequence within reach. PacBio has received $6.6 million from that program.

However, scientists note that they do not know what those bigger differences might mean in terms of disease risk, because they have not yet had thousands of human genomes to study.  So right now, personal genome readouts would provide little useful information beyond what could be obtained by the less expensive scans.  And some experts even question how useful those scans are.

Source: Andrew Pollack, "The Race to Read Genomes on a Shoestring, Relatively Speaking," New York Times, February 9, 2008.

For text:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/09/business/09genome.html 

 

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