Thousand Dollar Genome
January 15, 2014

Sequence Your Genome For $1,000?

Brett Smith for - Your Universe Online

A thousand bucks can get you that new MacBook Air or serve as a sizeable down payment on a new car. But a longer-term investment might be to sequence your entire personal genome.

On Tuesday, Ilumina, the world’s leading seller of gene sequencing machines, unveiled HiSeq X Ten– the first supercomputer made to process 20,000 human genomes annually at a cost of $1,000 each.

At a conference in San Francisco, Illumina’s CEO Jay Flatley said customers will start to see the DNA-sequencing machine on the market in the first quarter of 2014.

“This will be a blockbuster product,” he told Bloomberg News.

The $1,000-mark is a major milestone for the genetic sequencing industry, which has been trying to hit that goal for years. Experts have predicted that this price point would allow for the mainstreaming of genetic sequencing – and a resulting multiplication of genetic data that could lead to an explosion in medical breakthroughs.

“To figure out cancer, we need to sequence hundreds of thousands of cancer genomes, and this is the way to do it,” Flatley explained.

John Mattick, executive director of the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Australia, said in an Illumina press release that his institution would seek to leverage this new technology in pursuit of its research goals.

“The sequencing capacity and economies of scale of the HiSeq X Ten facility will also allow Garvan to accelerate the introduction of clinical genomics and next-generation medicine in Australia,” Mattick said. “We expect the HiSeq X Ten to underpin a new phase of collaboration between government, industry and other medical research stakeholders.”

“For the first time, it looks like it will be possible to deliver the $1,000 genome, which is tremendously exciting,” said Eric Lander, a professor of biology at MIT. “The HiSeq X Ten should give us the ability to analyze complete genomic information from huge sample populations. Over the next few years, we have an opportunity to learn as much about the genetics of human disease as we have learned in the history of medicine.”

Around ten years ago, sequencing a complete human genome would take months and cost about $1 billion. According to Illumina, the HiSeq X Ten can sequence dozens of genomes in about 24 hours. The machines will cost $1 million each and be sold in groups of 10 to large research centers. The company has also released a smaller, $250,000 machine called the NextSeq 500, which can fit on a typical lab bench and sequence one genome at a time.

“With the HiSeq X Ten, we’re delivering the $1,000 genome, reshaping the economics and scale of human genome sequencing, and redefining the possibilities for population-level studies in shaping the future of healthcare,” Flatley said.

“The ability to explore the human genome on this scale will bring the study of cancer and complex diseases to a new level. Breaking the ‘sound barrier’ of human genetics not only pushes us through a psychological milestone, it enables projects of unprecedented scale. We are excited to see what lies on the other side.”