$1000 genome sequencing ushers in a new era of scientific research

Genetics company Illumina has unveiled the HiSeq X, a new supercomputer that the company claims will cut the cost of genome sequencing to just US$1000.

(Credit: Genome gradient image by George Gastin, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Genetics company Illumina has unveiled the HiSeq X Ten, a new supercomputer that the company claims will cut the cost of genome sequencing to just US$1000.

A thousand bucks is all it will cost to sequence an entire genome, thanks to the new HiSeq X Ten, a computer designed solely for that purpose. The human genome — that is, the genetic information encoded in DNA — is fantastically complicated, and the Human Genome Project has been looking for ways to perform sequencing faster and less expensively since 1987.

The first human genome was sequenced in 2000 by Craig Venter, and the Human Genome Project came just three years later in 2003 — after spending 10 years and nearly US$3 billion.

As you can imagine, genome sequencing with a cost as potentially low as US$1000 per genome is ground-breaking.

HiSeq X Ten itself consists of 10 ultra-high-throughput sequencers, which cost US$1 million each, and can sequence five whole human genomes per day — six times faster than its predecessor — ushering in a new era for scientific and medical research.

From the ability to sequence a lot of genomes quickly and at low cost comes the potential to build a database of genomes, which would help identify genetic patterns that are more prone to health complications, for example. The bigger the genome database, the easier it will be to identify patterns. "To figure out cancer, we need to sequence hundreds of thousands of cancer genomes, and this is the way to do it," said Jay Flatley, Illumina's CEO.

So far, three companies have purchased the HiSeq X Ten: DNA sequencing company Macrogen in the US; the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard; and Australia's own Garvan Institute of Medical Research.

Via www.businessweek.com

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