Economies of Scale, Meet Sequencing

There's lots of attention brewing up around the X Prize for Genomics, with the target of getting the price for a human gene sequence to $1000. At that price point, a whole lot of things become possible that aren't now. Like, say, getting your DNA sequenced with your annual checkup, etc. The X Prize model is terrific - Wired gave Peter Diamandis a Rave award in 2006 for taking it from space to sequencing. But it's sometimes seems too futuristic; of course sequences will cost $1000 some day, but that reality is very different from today's. And until then, what?

Well, look a little deeper and it turns out that day isn't quite so distant. Consider this neat post from Derek Lowe's In the Pipeline, on how some researchers were treating a patient with a drug-resistant staph infection by sequencing the bacterium's entire genome to watch the mutations. Lowe provides some nice perspective on how holy-cow this really is:

Here's natural selection, operating in real time, under the strongest magnifying glass available. ... A few years ago, needless to say, it would have been a borderline-insane idea, and a few years before that it would have been flatly impossible. A few years from now it'll be routine, and a few years after that it probably won't be done at all, having been superseded by something more elegant that no one's come up with yet. But for now, we're entering the age where wildly sequence-intensive experiments, many of which no one even bothered to think about before, will start to run.

Thomas GoetzComment