Friday, April 25, 2008

Mapping the Individual - Cheaply

In yesterday's Guardian;
The cost of sequencing an individual genome is falling exponentially - just as the cost of hard disk space or transistors on a chip did when computing took off. Plotting the numbers on a graph suggests that by 2012 it will take a few hours and cost less than $100. A few years after that it will cost perhaps $10.

That's when you should expect an explosion in personal sequencing. Jason Bobe, the director of community for the Personal Genome Project, based at Harvard Medical School, writes the Personal Genome blog and reckons that by 2015, 50 million people will have had their own DNA sequenced. He says: "My rationale is simply to assume that the trend line for the personal sequencing market might look a lot like the one experienced in the personal computer market" - which grew from a few thousand units sold in 1975 to 50m in 1995. "If the personal genome sequencing market follows suit, we might say that 2007 for personal genome sequences was like 1979 for PCs, and we've just turned the corner into 1980 where units sold remains below 1m, but growth is noticeable."
The rapidly falling cost and time needed to map your DNA

13 years to map

4 years

4 weeks

2 days


"How far down the cost [of sequencing] will go will be determined by the final size of the market and its applications." But if the whole population is sequenced from birth, and your DNA becomes your passport and benefit ID, that will expand the market - perhaps making it a self-fulfilling prediction.