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Surprising Science

Robots Who Battle Genetic Disease

When you consider that the first human genome was completed a decade ago for billions of dollars, D.N.A. sequencing has come a long way, fast. Now robots sequence genes for less.

One California company is automating the gene sequencing process in hopes of making it easier to find mutations that predispose individuals to certain diseases. “Complete Genomics, a start-up in Mountain View, California, is already the world’s largest human genome sequencing factory. In a room half the size of a tennis court sit 16 robots that sequenced the genomes of 800 people last year. Going full tilt, they can now churn out 400 genomes a month. The current price, offered to researchers and pharma companies but not yet to private individuals, is $9,500 per genome; place an order for 1000 or more, and it drops to $5,500.”


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