The 2007 crash in genome sequencing costs

By Razib Khan | February 21, 2011 6:39 pm

Dr. Daniel MacArthur suggests:

Now, we don’t want everyone working in genomics to start using the same blue-on-grey slide to illustrate the impending datapocalypse; so I’d encourage people to download the raw data (warning: Excel file) and make their own pretty pictures.

My straightforward attempts are below. Get the raw data and try your own. I assume that R and gnuplot could produce something prettier….

MORE ABOUT: Genomics

Comments (5)

  1. Chris

    Maybe by later this year it’ll be only a few cents per MB.

  2. It would be very interesting to know to what extent NIH and NSF investment was involved in this. Sequencing prices are rapidly approaching the widely clinically accessible price-range.

  3. Interesting. Its good to know that progress is being made somewhere. This has to make a lot of concepts that were dismissed as economically impossible look good now. The old prices made genomics something that might make sense to determine the cause of a disease, but these prices really do seem to put individualized medicine within the realm of economic viability. A simple visit with a specialist and allergy lab test to determine what is giving you hives by prodding you with allergens can cost $500-$1500, and labs charge a couple of hundred dollars for routine annual checkup blood tests. A broad spectrum genome test that unlike most medical tests doesn’t have to be repeated ever seems well on its way to approaching these price thresholds.

    From a marketing perspective, the optimal approach may be to slot these into the regime of preventive care as an extra option at the pediatrician along with optional vaccination rounds like the HPV shot or flouride treatments for kids at the dentist. Of course, the information isn’t useful for much that a family history taken from each parent provides, except for getting deep range look at one’s ancestors and making pretty pictures. But, as more and more interesting data can be gleaned from this kind of DNA testing, it seems certain to become worthwhile.

    The progress in this time period is a bit surprising (although biotech results are a lagging indicator of biotech investments).

    Biotech venture capital absolutely vanished from the scene in the wake of the financial crisis, and even companies with drugs that were already well on their way to FDA approval that weren’t able to find VC financing to finish the job, or IP buyers for even a fraction of the money that they had in the R&D. Even bondholders of bankrupt biotech companies weren’t interested in advanced stage IP if it wasn’t immediately ready to go to market.

    A friend of mine who works at a securities law firm in Southern California told me at the time that it was clear that at least three quarters of the securities offerings that his firm was working on would almost surely produce busted deals before the legal work for the offerings was even completed.

    Despite the fact that biotech has absolutely nothing to do with a financial, construction and real estate sector driven downturn and that health care actually did very well compared to other industries in the recession, the investment funds almost completely dried up and no one had any appetite for taking risks, even slight ones.

    I haven’t been around the world much in the last year or so, which makes it hard to know if the investors have come back. Perhaps, if we’re lucky, the time out that the industry has experienced will mean that the projects that get funded going forward will be better vetted and produce higher success rates and benefit more from stuff that has happened in complementary areas of research.

    I’d also be curious to know how much, if any of this cost progress is a result of expiring patents. We are constantly experiencing the two decade echo of old research whose patents have experied making them affordable for uses by others.


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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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