May 29, 2003
Venter, Duke U Initiate Search For Genetic Causes Of Disease

Craig Venter says at his new Center for the Advancement of Genomics DNA sequencing will cost only 1 dollar per 800 base pairs.

At his new center, the cost of sequencing DNA will be as low as $1 for 800 DNA units, he said, a substantial saving on current costs.

That works out to about 0.125 cents per base pair. Let us put that in some recent historical perspective. In 1998 DBA sequencing cost 50 cents per base pair.

When we started the project in the late '80s, it cost about $5 to sequence a base pair; that has dropped to about 50 cents per base pair,

As of November 2002 the U.S. Human Genome Research Project of the US Department of Energy was quoting a cost of 9 cents per finished base pair. This makes comparisons a bit difficult. The effort to sequence the human genome involved repeated sequencing to look for errors. Is Venter quoting a verified sequencing cost of 0.125 cents per base pair or just a first pass cost that low? Either way his cost is at least an order of magnitude lower than the DNA sequencing costs of just a couple of years ago. However, his cost still puts the cost of sequencing a person's complete genome (about 2.9 billion base pairs) in the millions of dollars. Costs are still a few orders of magnitude too high for the sequencing of one's own genome to become commonplace.

There are research groups and venture capital start-up companies working on more radical advances in DNA sequencing. See here and here for example.

Venter's institute has signed an agreement with Duke University to collaborate to discover the genetic contributions to various diseases and to develop faster and cheaper tests for genetic variations that contribute to disease.

Part of their goal is to identify genetic hiccups found in major illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, infectious diseases, even sickle cell anemia. But it’s also to find accurate, inexpensive tests that will tell individuals what’s likely to make them ill long before they’re in danger, so they can opt for preventive measures — maybe even genetic "repair patches."

As the cost of DNA sequencing continues to drop the scale and number of efforts to discover the genetic causes of diseases will continue to rise. Most importantly, the rate at which the genetic causes of disease are discovered will steadily accelerate year after year until the vast bulk of the genetic variations that contribute to disease are identified.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2003 May 29 12:56 AM  Biotech Advance Rates

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