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Cut-price genomes draw closer

5 August 2005
Appeared in BioNews 320

Advances in genome sequencing technologies are bringing scientists one step closer to a time when it would cost as little as $1000 to read the entire genetic code of a person, two US teams say.

A group based at Harvard Medical School has developed a method using beads and fluorescent dyes, which they say would cost around $2.2 million at present. The researchers, who published their technique in the journal Science, eventually hope to reduce the cost to $1000 (£562), so that it can be used in the routine diagnosis and treatment of cancer and other diseases.

Meanwhile, scientists based at US firm 454 Life Sciences say they have developed a sequencing method that is 100 times faster than current technology. The team, who published their study early online in the journal Nature, say that in the next few years it will be possible to assemble an entire human genome for $10,000 (£5620).

The entire human genome sequence, the first draft of which was published three years ago, cost an estimated $3 billion, with mammalian genome projects today costing between $10-$50 million. Last year, the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) invited proposals to develop new, cheap technologies, aimed at developing a '$1000 genome' by 2014. It also sought to fund interim research to develop a '$100,000 genome', which is thought to be achievable within five years.

The Harvard team, lead by George Church, say their new method could make personalised medicine - the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases tailored to a person's genetic make-up - a reality. Their technique relies on replicating thousands of DNA fragments attached to tiny beads. Four differently-coloured fluorescent dyes then stick to each location in the DNA sequence - one for each of the four chemical 'bases' that make up DNA, known  as A, C, G and T. A microscope, digital camera and computer are then used to collect and analyse the data. The scientists used the method to read the entire genetic code of the gut bacteria E.coli.

The group at 454 Life Sciences has developed a method based on a technique called pyrosequencing, which generates flashes of light every time a DNA base is analysed. The scientists have already used the technology to sequence the genomes of 50 microbes. Company founder Jonathon Rothberg was inspired to develop the technology six years ago, after his newborn son had to stay in a hospital intensive care unit. He found himself wishing that he could just read the boy's genome to find out what was wrong, Nature News reports. 'Much like the personal computer opened up computing to a larger audience, this work will enable the widespread use of sequencing in a number of fields, and ultimately place machines in your doctors office', he predicts.

A step toward the $1,000 personal genome using readily available lab equipment
Medical News Today |  5 August 2005
Fast sequencing comes to light
Nature News |  31 July 2005
Genome sequencing going cheap
ABC News |  5 August 2005
30 July 2012 - by Dr Nadeem Shaikh 
A US company has taken up the challenge to sequence 100 genomes in 30 days...
20 June 2011 - by Ruth Pidsley 
US scientists have reported possibly the first example of using one person's genetic sequence to refine a diagnosis and provide personalised medical treatment. Whole-genome sequencing (WGS) helped pinpoint defects in the DNA of 14-year-old fraternal twins Noah and Alexis Beery causing their rare neurological condition, dopamine-responsive dystonia (DRD)...
18 October 2010 - by Ken Hanscombe 
Twelve members of the Genomes Unzipped project have made their personal genetic data publicly available online. By sharing their genetic data, the project aims to guide discussion about the risks, benefits, and limitations of genetic information, and the issue of genetic privacy...
17 August 2009 - by Dr Will Fletcher 
Third-generation 'single-molecule' technology has been used for the first time to read a human genome sequence. Professor Stephen Quake, from Stanford University, California, US, is only the eighth person whose genome has been published since the first breakthroughs were made in 2000. When this latest generation of technology is perfected the hope is that it will bring us one step closer to ‘the $1,000 genome' that will open the door to personalised medical treatme...
27 January 2008 - by Dr Jess Buxton 
An international project to read the entire genetic code of at least 1000 individuals will result in a comprehensive catalogue of human variation that will accelerate efforts to identify genetic factors involved in health and disease, scientists announced last week. The '1000 Genomes Project' will take...
9 October 2006 - by Antony Blackburn-Starza 
The X Prize Foundation is offering $10m to the first private team that is able to sequence 100 human genomes in just ten days. It would currently take months, at the cost of millions of dollars, to sequence an individual human genome. Francis Collins, director of the...
1 March 2004 - by BioNews 
The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) is inviting proposals to develop new, cheap genome sequencing technologies, aimed at developing a '$1000 genome' by 2014. The entire human genome sequence, the first draft of which was published three years ago, cost an estimated $3 billion, with mammalian genome projects today...
22 April 2003 - by BioNews 
The final version of the entire human genome sequence was unveiled last week by the International Human Genome Sequencing Consortium, more than two years ahead of schedule. Since the 'rough draft' was published in February 2001, researchers have been proof-reading the sequence, and filling in most of the gaps. A...
30 September 2002 - by BioNews 
Several millionaires are said to be queuing up for a new service that will provide details of a person's entire genetic code within a week - for a mere £400,000. Craig Venter, former head of Celera, the US company that produced a draft version of the human genome in February 2001...
29 April 2002 - by BioNews 
Craig Venter, the scientist who led the biotechnology company Celera Genomics in its attempt to sequence the human genome, has announced that the genetic data used was largely his own. At the time, it was said that the genetic data used came from anonymous donors, and the sequence presented was...
12 February 2001 - by BioNews 
The two scientific teams who jointly announced the completion of the first draft of the entire human genetic code last June will publish their results this week. The international consortium's version will appear in Nature this Thursday, while that of US company Celera Genomics will be published in rival journal...
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