The Race for the $1,000 Genome

Not everything at the Consumer Electronics Show is a quirky gadget. The announcement of new genome sequencing technology edges toward a medical benchmark: the $1,000 genome.

What's the Latest Development?

The Consumer Electronics Show is not all quirky gadgets. New genome sequencing technology announced at the show suggests that companies are getting closer to sequencing an entire human's genome for $1,000, the benchmark beyond which sequencing could be affordable in general medical practice. One company, Ion Torrent, has developed a machine the size of a laser printer that it hopes to market to medical practices, rather than large research labs, by sequencing a few hundred genes associated with disease and cancer.

What's the Big Idea?

Another company, Illumina, offers a machine that does more heavy lifting. Priced over $500,000, the sequencer can provide data at a cost relatively lower than Ion Torrent's. So despite Ion Torrent's lower initial price, the amount of data Illumina's machine can sequence means it will likely reach the $1,000 benchmark first. Still, genome sequencing data must be heavily processed before it is of any use to medical professionals. And the cost of that software may being putting a floor on the falling cost of sequencing.

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