Genetics pioneer Craig Venter took the stage at the Web 2.0 Summit with organizer Tim O'Reilly. What's a biologist doing at a Web 2.0 conference? Talking about how information and biology are converging (and have been for a while).
Interesting tidbits: Venter's own DNA was sequenced as part of his research. It cost, he estimates, about $70 million. Today it costs only $300,000 to sequence a person's DNA, and the $100,000 benchmark is in sight. It's an information processing problem, he said. In other words, Moore's Law and genetics are tightly tied. It won't be long before your genome--and your likelihood to get various diseases, live long, be athletic, etc.--will be available in a standard medical test.
The implications for medicine, and its evil twin the insurance industry, are vast. Despite the privacy issues, Venter is in favor of transparency in genomics, so that, for example, you'll be able to "Google a date's DNA," as O'Reilly remarked. Scary? Sure. But "a good idea," Venter said. "Especially if you plan to have children."
In other news, apparently we are "weeks to months away" from growing a living, but completely synthetic bacteria in the lab. If you find this terrifying and fascinating, I recommend the novel, The Deus Machine by Pierre Oullette (Amazon link).