Back in October we dove into what the future holds in store for gene sequencing. The aim is to increase accessibility to genetic information in order to provide much clearer forms of treatment for an array of disorders and diseases. Now, 2014 has arrived and Illumina, Inc. has rattled the scientific community with the unveiling of their HiSeqX Ten sequencing system. A very powerful system indeed! This system combines the processing power of ten supercomputers working in unison and costing a hefty total of $10 million. Considering the first human genome cost $3 billion and took 13 years to sequence, the sticker price of $10 million and processing time of about 24 hours doesn’t seem overly daunting.
In the last decade alone, genetics-based medicine has quietly catapulted to the forefront of medical research. Leaps in technological advances has provided the backbone for bolstering our abilities in the genetics arena. Many research entities have worked day in and day out to increase access to genetic-based medicine by striving to produce what is known as the “$1,000 Genome”. The importance of achieving this goal and the potential in highly-accessible genetic data can be seen by the NIH’s 2013 award of a total of $17 million in funding to the “$1,000 Genome” grant program. This has been a very long awaited breakthrough in the industry as we have seen the benefits of being able to genetically sequence a range of diseases. Children, and adults alike, with rare diseases can potentially get routine answers about the causes of their conditions. They can even get a streamlined path to therapies that can increase their quality of life without having to go through the “trial and error” of therapeutic treatment discovery.
At a price of $1,000, sequencing can finally take flight in the mainstream. By achieving this milestone, Illumina has opened the doors to creating much richer sets of data for analyzing the cause of illness. Blood tests taken today can be analyzed and sent to your doctor before your next appointment. This gives your doctor vital insight into an individual’s inherited strengths and weaknesses. Before you run out the door with your checkbook in hand, please keep in mind that this does not mean that consumers will be able to buy their genomes for $1,000 anytime soon. This benchmark of $1,000 doesn’t take into account realistic labor costs and commercial markup for the providers of genetic tests. Nonetheless, this is an important benchmark that emphasizes and confirms the potential for creating a commercially ready means for acquiring and utilizing genetic data for the public.
Eric Lander, founding director of the Broad Institute and a professor of Biology at MIT, encapsulated the scope of gene sequencing as it stands today in the following quote, “For the first time, it looks like it will be possible to deliver the $1,000 genome, which is tremendously exciting… 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.” The sky is quite literally the limit as gene sequencing inches its way into mainstream medicinal treatment processes and we are very excited to see what the future has in store!