December 22, 2007
$350,000 Full Personal Genome Sequencing Service

At least the upper class can now get their full genomes sequenced.

CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts — Nov. 29, 2007 — Knome, a personal genomics company, today announced the launch of the first commercial whole-genome sequencing and analysis service for individuals.

Knome does genetic sequencing and not just genetic testing. The latter usually involves testing a number of predetermined locations in genes where genes are known to vary between individuals and groups. The former, what Knome is offering, involves the much harder task of going through and reading every letter in your genome. When done well full genetic sequencing can identify rarer single letter differences that the cheaper genetic testing techniques won't identify. Also, full sequencing can measure what are called copy variations where the number of copies of each gene gets measured.

Whole-genome sequencing decodes the 6 billion bits of information that make up an individual’s genome. Unlike existing genome scanning or “SNP chip” technologies that provide useful but limited information on approximately 20 conditions, whole-genome sequencing allows for the analysis of up to 2,000 common and rare conditions, and over 20,000 genes – numbers that are rapidly growing.

“Whole-genome sequencing is the endgame,” according to Mr. Conde. “It will enable us to look at nearly 100% of your genetic code compared to the less than 0.02% currently available on SNP chips. This is the approach that most fully reveals what our genomes can tell us about ourselves.”

Pricing for Knome’s service will start at $350,000, including whole-genome sequencing and a comprehensive analysis from a team of leading geneticists, clinicians and bioinformaticians. This team will also provide continued support and counseling.

But if you don't have a spare $350k but can scrape up a thousand or two you can still get fairly cheap genetic testing of some large subset of known genetic differences.

Two rival firms have just unveiled services that will allow people to scrutinize their own genomes for $1,000.

The first was deCODE genetics, an Icelandic firm that has already developed genetic tests for several diseases. On Nov. 16 it announced an Internet-based service, called deCODEme.


Then, on Nov. 19, 23andMe, a start-up based in California's Silicon Valley, announced a similar service.


Navigenics, another Californian firm, says it will unveil a more medically oriented service, priced at around $2,500, in January.

The X Prize Foundation has an Archon prize to encourage the development of faster full genome sequencing technology.

If the X Prize Foundation has its way, it will soon be possible to sequence a genome in hours. To make that happen, the foundation, perhaps better known for its spaceflight prize, is offering the Archon genomics prize. This will be worth $10m to the first team able to sequence 100 human genomes accurately in ten days or less. (The prize is sponsored by Stewart Blusson, a philanthropist who is president of Archon Minerals, a mining company based in Vancouver.)

Faster sequencing is usually cheaper sequencing. So the effect of this prize is to create incentives to develop cheaper DNA sequencing technologies.

Expect to see huge price drops for DNA sequencing and testing services. Also, as the underlying technologies become cheaper the resulting flood of genetic information will allow scientists to discover orders of magnitude more information about what each genetic difference means. So genetic test results will tell us far more useful information than they can so far today.

I expect the biggest impact of genetic testing to occur with mating practices. People will use genetic testing to select suitable partners (or donors) for reproduction. Also, they will use gene testing to select among embryos with in vitro fertilization. They will choose among embryos based on what genetic test results indicate about looks, intelligence, personality qualities, athletic abilities, health risks, and other qualities. These genetic testing companies are going to usher in huge shifts in the directions of human evolution.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2007 December 22 10:48 PM  Biotech Assay Tools

Comments said at December 23, 2007 2:21 AM:

What happens when all the newborns are natural leaders, and none are none are natural followers? A society of narcissistic sociopaths trying to lead each other? Society will have to be restructured because people will chafe in the existing vertical order.

morpheus said at December 23, 2007 9:59 AM:

evolution dosent stop:)

whole genome , is the way to go

L Zoel said at December 23, 2007 12:35 PM:

"What happens when all the newborns are natural leaders, and none are none are natural followers?"

Actually, natural leaders are generally better followers too. The ability to delegate authority and the ability to work under authority are one in the same.

David Govett said at December 23, 2007 2:17 PM:

This information is practically worthless, in the absence of epigenetic information.

Julian Morrison said at December 23, 2007 5:04 PM:

I want a copy of my own fully sequenced DNA - it will let me take the data and run my OWN bioinformatics analysis against it, out from under the thumb of the medical priesthood.

Randall Parker said at December 23, 2007 5:34 PM:


If everyone becomes an extravert we'll have too many salesmen (argh!).

David Govett,

Lots of genetic tendencies come thru regardless of epigenetics.

Amy Harmon at the NY Times got analyzed by 23AndMe and found she has a number of alleles that explain things she knows about herself:

I don’t like brussels sprouts. Who knew it was genetic? But I have the snippet of DNA that gives me the ability to taste a compound that makes many vegetables taste bitter. I differ from people who are blind to bitter taste — who actually like brussels sprouts — by a single spelling change in our four-letter genetic alphabet: somewhere on human chromosome 7, I have a G where they have a C.

It is one of roughly 10 million tiny differences, known as single nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs (pronounced “snips”) scattered across the 23 pairs of human chromosomes from which 23andMe takes its name. The company generated a list of my “genotypes” — AC’s, CC’s, CT’s and so forth, based on which versions of every SNP I have on my collection of chromosome pairs.

For instance, I tragically lack the predisposition to eat fatty foods and not gain weight. But people who, like me, are GG at the SNP known to geneticists as rs3751812 are 6.3 pounds lighter, on average, than the AA’s. Thanks, rs3751812!

Sanjay said at December 24, 2007 8:42 PM:

Matt, we'll have to exile them into space on the Botany Bay, and leave them as a problem for some future generation to deal with.

HellKaiserRyo said at December 24, 2007 10:39 PM:

Good idea Sanjay... you can learn something engrossing yourself on sci-fi :).

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