Friday, June 08, 2007

6 Billion Bits of Data About Me, Me, Me!

James D. Watson, who helped crack the DNA code half a century ago, last week became the first person handed the full text of his own DNA on a small computer disk. But he won’t be the last.

By the end of the summer, Dr. Church’s research project promises to deliver sequences to its first 10 volunteers. Unlike Dr. Watson, whose complete genome cost $1 million, the project’s volunteers will receive the one percent of their genome currently deemed most useful at a cost of $1,000.

One start-up company, 23andme, recently announced plans to provide affordable chunks of their DNA to individual consumers, along with tools to help them keep track of and understand their genetic information.

And technology companies like Illumina, Applied Biosystems and 454 Life Sciences, which solicited Dr. Watson’s DNA to prove its abilities, say the price of a complete human genome has already dropped to $100,000. They are competing for a $10 million “X prize” to sequence 100 human genomes within 10 days. (Dr. Watson’s took about two months.)

Those who have signed up to be sequenced as part of the competition include Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft; the astrophysicist Stephen Hawking; the television interviewer Larry King; and the financier Michael Milken.

“It’s the start of an era of comparative individual genomics,” said J. Craig Venter, who as president of the Celera Corporation sequenced much of his own genome in 2000 and recently completed it. “Hopefully we’ll have tens of thousands to compare in the next year or two.”
I can't wait until the day when I get get my genome sequenced. The price is down to $100,000 and dropping faster than Moore's Law.

This is a good example of "trickle down technology", where the rich have access to a technology earlier by paying more, but their money helps to pay for the R&D that eventually brings the cost down to a price that everyone can afford.

These X Prizes are great. I hadn't heard of this one before, but sequencing 100 genomes in 10 days at a cost of less than $10,000 per genome is a worthy challenge.

The idea to just do 1% of the genome also seems like a good idea, as 97% of the genome is so called junk DNA. This will reduce the price by 99% but still yield the most important genetic information.

via NY Times

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