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“Letting the Genome out of the Bottle”
The Archon X Prize Foundation and NIH solicit funds for projects endeavoring to sequence the entire human genome for $1,000. The current price tag for sequencing an entire human genome is between $10 million and $50 million – an exorbitant price by any standard. Ten million will be awarded to the first team to sequence 100 human genomes in 30 days for $1,000 or less per genome. The NIH’s National Human Genome Research Institute awards the first federal grants for genome sequencing research one year later.
By 2008, 35 federal grants totaling $56 million have been awarded. By 2007, top competitors include 454 Life Sciences, Reveo, Inc., Pacific Biosciences, Solexa, DeCode Genetics and Illumina. Private and public funding for these projects is not wasted, and the price for whole-genome sequencing continues to fall from $5.7 in 2008 on a 454 machine to $3,700 using a Complete Genomics machine. The price drop is expected to continue.
In 2011 Jonathan Rothberg of Ion Torrent Systems develops the Ion Torrent Machine, a device that decodes DNA using voltage-detecting semiconductor chips. The Torrent machine can sequence DNA in only two hours, and Rothberg is confident his machine will achieve the $1,000 genome by 2013. According to one genome biologist involved in the competition, “a race to the death as to who can sequence faster and cheaper” is shifting into gear. The ability to sequence an entire human genome would effectively usher in a new era of personalized medicine.