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Thanks for the memories  July 26, 2012

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

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Michelle Starr is the tiger force at the core of all things. She also writes about cool stuff and apps as CNET Australia's Crave editor. But mostly the tiger force thing.

(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.


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JaneH1 posted a comment   

Sounds great, but who is going to analyse all that data? And how are we going to analyse it? Putting together all the little pieces of DNA that come out of those machines is no easy task. And finding which bits are relevant isn't exactly a walk in the park either.

Having said that though, this is definitely a step in the right direction. And hopefully means more jobs for bioinformaticians!


Michelle Starr posted a reply   

Presumably the companies that bought the machines will have researchers to be applied to the task.

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