How cheaper genomes fuel science


Dna The cost of whole-genome sequencing is dropping like a rock, and that’s fueling a “renaissance of activity” for scientific sleuths tracking down the genetic causes of disease, a pioneer in the field says. Harvard geneticist George Church provided a status report on the genome market, and its implications for medical research, during this week's “Open Questions in Neuroscience” symposium in Seattle, sponsored by the Allen Institute for Brain Science. Church is not only a Harvard professor and research, but also the founder of the Knome commercial venture for genome-sequencing.

Thanks to competition in the sequencing field, the price of decoding a complete human genome has been following an affordability curve that looks like Moore's Law on steroids. The cost of the federal Human Genome Project, which issued its first draft in 2000 and a complete genome sequence in 2003, was estimated at $2.7 billion in 1991 dollars. But that price tag has been falling by as much as an order of magnitude per year, and today the going rate for whole-genome sequencing is edging below $10,000 (counseling costs extra). The cost of materials — that is, the chemical reagents required to do the tests — is merely $1,000, Church said in June.

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