In the New York Times today, John Markoff writes about the rapidly falling cost of genetic sequencing and the potential medical advances that may result. Markoff focuses on Complete Genomics, a California company that hopes to use computing and other approaches to break the $1,000 barrier; one of its machines “blends robotics, chemistry, optics and computing.”
Dozens of companies have been vying for some time to sequence a genome for less than $1,000. (The eternal optimists at the Singularity Hub predicted that someone would crack the $1,000 ceiling by the end of 2009.) The $1,000 mark is, of course, arbitrary in some ways, playing on our delight in rounded numbers. But low-cost genetic sequencing would certainly help bring about the personalized medicine we’ve been promised so long. Complete Genomics founder Clifford Reid has predicted that whole-genome sequencing could someday come “at a cost comparable to a comprehensive blood test.”
But Eric Topol, author of The Creative Destruction of Medicine: How the Digital Revolution Will Create Better Health Care, is a bit skeptical of some of these optimistic predictions. He tweets, “Whole genome sequencing at the cost of a blood test? I don’t think so (if u include interpretation!)” A follow-up explained, “now we’re talking about 6 billion bases, ~40X coverage, lots of unknowns, a big analytical challenge!”
Markoff’s piece is accompanied by a wonderful photo of Complete Genomics’ Bill Banyai looking off thoughtfully into the distance, hands on hips. Would that there were a superhero emblem on his lab wear.
Read more on the New York Times.