The genomics future is almost now

By Razib Khan | October 23, 2010 1:51 pm

Stephen Hsu on developments at the Beijing Genomics Institute:

I was floored today when the director of BGI told me they would soon reach a sequencing rate of 1000 (human) genomes per day (so, 10^5 to 10^6 genomes per year is right on the horizon). According to him, they can be profitable at a price of $5k per genome! [Clarification: I later learned this might mean at 10x coverage … not exactly sure, although I tried to get a more precise statement.]

Five years ago I asked Armand Leroi:

[Q] 10) If in 10 years you could purchase your own full genome sequence for a month of your salary, would you do it? (assume privacy concerns are obviated)

[A] Yes.

It looks like I didn’t anticipate the rate of change in this area, as 10 years was also certainly too conservative or pessimistic. Dan MacArthur has given a plausible estimate of ~2 years for the realization of a $1,000 genome, but it looks like we’ll hit a genome at the cost of a month’s salary for a professional person on the order of months and not years.

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  • Biologist

    This depends largely on definitions. Accuracy still has to improve a lot.

  • dave chamberlin

    Gordon Moore co-founder of Intel observed that every 18 months chip capacity doubles. Raymond Kurzweil, inventor of speech recognition software noted calculating power doubled every three years from 1910 to 1950. It doubled every 18 months from 1966 to 2000. It is now doubling every year. I can’t remember if Razib has ever graphed the decreasing cost of personal genomics and compared it to Moore’s Law.

  • steve hsu

    Re: sequencing costs, it’s on a super-exponential (so, faster than Moore’s Law) path. However, a big contributor to this is the drop in computing costs. Taking short reads and reassembling them using big computers is currently the way to go.

  • kurt9

    Genomics data is useful for determining ancestry. However, the failure of genomic sequencing to identify the “genetic causes” of many diseases that were presumed to be genetic suggests that personal genomic sequencing may not be that useful for health care purposes. This is the reason why I’m unlikely to use any of these services even if genomic sequencing drops to $1000 per person. I think there’s a lot of hype in genomics.

  • Josh

    BGI genomes would not be the most accurate in the world… they are sort of known for their emphasis on quantity over quality.

  • Pingback: 30,000 full human genomes by January 1st, 2012? | Gene Expression | Discover Magazine()


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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at


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