Sean King

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Knoxville, Tennessee, United States

Monday, June 8, 2009

$1,000 Gene Sequencing is Near

Lisa M. Krieger: They'll be as small as your microwave and cheaper than your laptop. And the powerful tools — future gene sequencing machines — will be able to tell you exactly what you're made of. Someday, they could help keep you healthy.

It took 10 years and $4 billion for the federal government to complete the first sequence of the human genome in 2000. Its equipment filled vast rooms at many campuses.
Now rival scientific teams, including three in the Bay Area, are racing to build tests that can accurately sequence an entire human genome in less than 30 minutes for $1,000 — about a hundredth of the current price. The cheaper tests will make it possible to sequence the genomes of tens of thousands more people, providing vital data about human traits, such as susceptibility to disease.

Virtuoso bioengineers predict that within two years their tests will start to transform medicine much as PCs rocked the world of mainframe computing.

It is hard to overstate the impact that such things will have on healthcare. Medicine is becoming digitized, making it subject to the Law of Accelerating Returns. This will finally lead to deflation rather than inflation in healthcare, just like in every other industry that has been digitized.

Cost will be further reduced by the fact that, as Krygier's quote suggests, healthcare is increasingly self-administered in the home. Everything from blood pressure monitors to glucose tests to, eventually, genome sequencing machines are or soon will be available very cheaply at your local drugstore.

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