A biotechnology company has announced a new price for sequencing an individual’s entire genome: $5,000. The announcement from the California start-up Complete Genomics signifies a drastic price drop–the going rate for a complete genome is currently about $100,000–and could allow researchers to routinely collect vast amounts of genetic information. Researchers say that a $5,000 genome would enable new studies to identify rare genetic variants linked to common diseases, and it could open up the sequencing market to diagnostic and pharmaceutical companies, making genome sequencing a routine part of clinical drug testing [ABC News].
Complete Genomics won’t offer its services directly to people who are curious about their genetic makeup, setting it apart from consumer-oriented companies like 23andMe and deCODE Genetics. Complete Genomics expects most of its customers to be pharmaceutical companies or research laboratories that are doing studies aimed at finding genes linked to diseases. Such studies might look at the DNA of 1,000 people with a disease and 1,000 people without the disease. Right now, such studies look at only particular locations in the DNA because it is too expensive to determine the entire DNA sequence. But presumably, an entire sequence would provide more complete information [The New York Times].
Many companies and researchers have set a goal of the “$1,000 genome,” a price which they say would make the sequencing of entire genomes common in both the consumer marketplace and in medicine. The cheap services offered by Complete Genomics and competing companies could usher in an era of personalized medicine, where patients aren’t prescribed drugs based on a haphazard process of trial and error, but can be tested beforehand to determine which medication they’ll respond to best.
Complete Genomics, which aims to sequence 1,000 genomes in 2009, says it brought its costs down through a complicated process of miniaturization. It also hasn’t released any data to back up its claims, although it does has the backing of prominent scientists in the sequencing field…. “I think it’s quite probable” that the company will achieve a $1,000 genome by the middle of next year, [geneticist George] Church says, but “it’s not going to be easy” to sequence that many genomes in that amount of time [Nature News].
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