June 09, 2011
Bigger Genome Projects Undertaken

At the end of a press release from UC Davis about a research cooperation deal struck with a big genomics research institute in China the Chinese center's genome sequencing capacity is mentioned and it is quite large.

BGI was founded in 1999 as the Beijing Genomics Institute. It now has several branches and subsidiaries including: BGI-Shenzhen, a nonprofit research institute; BGI-Hong Kong, a private institute that manages international collaborations and transfers profits to BGI; and BGI-Americas, located in Boston, which just celebrated its one-year anniversary and announced new joint projects with the Broad Institute and the United Kingdom. BGI has about 4,000 employees and the capacity to sequence the equivalent of 1,600 complete human genomes each day.

What caught my eye: The ability to sequence 1,600 complete human genomes per day. In a year that is 584,000 genomes. Back in the 1990s it took years to sequence a single human genome. Now 1,600 human genomes or equivalent numbers of genomes from other species could be sequenced in a day. Rapidly declining sequencing costs will bring us to 1 million genomes sequenced per year pretty soon. Check out this graph showing how DNA sequencing costs have gone into a steep dive:


This huge decline in sequencing costs is making possible some pretty ambitious efforts to sequence to find genetic variants that control important human traits. In particular, the BGI mention above brings to reminds me that BGI-Shenzhen is doing a big DNA sequencing effort on very smart Chinese kids in order find genetic variants that contribute to high intelligence. In 5 years they might have many such variants identified.

As long as the US Food and Drug Administration and similar regulatory agencies in Europe do not outlaw direct-to-consumer genetic testing it is going to become useful to get yourself genetically tested and, in the longer run, get your full genome sequenced.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2011 June 09 12:26 AM  Biotech Advance Rates

Raldog said at June 9, 2011 10:15 AM:

Wondering what your thoughts are about the recent reports of BT toxins found in humans from virulized trangenic crops?

Nanonymous said at June 9, 2011 4:42 PM:

Even under the best scenario, the full genome cost will almost certainly never drop below $1,000. Not a sum most people are willing to spend unless there is something obviously tangible for them in it. Alas, as of today the greatest value of having your genome sequenced lies with it supporting high status dinner conversations.

Octus said at June 10, 2011 11:13 AM:

to Nanonymous:
Yeah, and Robert Lloyd, IBM executive, 'could not imagine the need for a computer in everyone's home' in 1968.

AMac said at June 10, 2011 1:21 PM:

The linked chart goes to January 2011, and ends with a price of ~$14,000 per complete human genome sequence.

Here is an excerpt from a press release earlier this week (6/8/11) from nextgen sequence leader Illumina --

"Illumina President and CEO Jay Flatley announced a significant price reduction for its individual genome sequencing service from $19,500 to $9,500. Additionally, the Company is offering a program to subsidize sequencing for patients with life-threatening disease where whole-genome sequence information may provide their physician with critical tools for diagnosis or treatment. The price under this program is $7,500 per genome and, for cancer patients, $10,000 for a tumor-normal pair."

$9,500, that's the retail price, no volume discount...

Randall Parker said at June 10, 2011 2:34 PM:


Very cool. I'm starting to think about what price to hold out for. Certainly I'll do it for $500. I'll do it for a higher price if some genetic variants with obvious immediate practical uses (e.g. choose best diet) become known. I'll still waiting for more actionable info about genetic variants.

Paul said at June 10, 2011 4:29 PM:

Wondering what your thoughts are about the recent reports of BT toxins found in humans from virulized trangenic crops?

Why should we care? Those toxins affect insect digestive enzymes, which aren't found in humans.

Jim Hu said at June 10, 2011 4:39 PM:

I heard at a meeting last week that it's currently $5K for a human genome with Illumina, $4K if you get a bulk discount.

But the drop in price also means that genome projects can be smaller; individual labs may take on genomes. The ion current machines are being marketed for small groups.

Anonymous said at June 10, 2011 6:43 PM:

Raldog, it's all going according to plan. When we get invaded by the insectoid aliens they will be sorry. Of course they may just bombard us from orbit if they can't eat us, but we have a plan for that too. We always have a plan.....

Randall Parker said at June 10, 2011 7:11 PM:


BT toxins in humans: What recent reports? It helps to provide a link.

Jim Hu,

$4k in bulk: How very cool.

We've reached the point where it is time to sequencing on a million people and collect large amounts of data on each one. Every measurable visible physical feature, personality tests, IQ tests, memory tests, exercise tests (tread mill with sensors and similar tests), detailed personal health histories, and other info. That way all that sequencing data can get compared with all the personal data to look for correlations.

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