Geneticist Elizabeth Worthey worked on the first-ever treatment of a patient based on DNA sequencing, helping doctors decide to give a bone marrow transplant to a 6-year-old boy who had suffered through more than a hundred operations. Now Worthey, an assistant professor at the Medical College of Wisconsin, is part of a team working to comb through the sequences of five more children.
Every Friday, she and her colleagues at Wisconsin Children’s Hospital meet to go over cases that other doctors have put forward for DNA sequencing. There have been about three dozen requests. An insurance company has even agreed to pay for one of the cases, although the money is not yet in the bank and the hospital will not disclose either the insurer or details about the patient. This is the first time that an insurer is known to have agreed to pay for the sequencing of an entire human genome!
“For some of these kids there is no alternative,” Worthey says, “You either guess, you do nothing, or you do something — in this case, sequence their genome.”
William Andregg is the CEO and founder of Halcyon Molecular. He invented a technology called “core polymer placement” which offers quicker and cheaper DNA sequencing. Mr. Andregg feels that the cost of complete human genome sequencing will be as low as $1000 as soon as the year 2013!
Here is the interview done by Sander Olson, Internet journalist and creator of nanomagazine.com, a website dedicated to interviews of nanotechnology researchers:
Question: How much does it currently cost to sequence ones genome?
Answer: Depends on what you mean by “sequence ones genome”. If you want a truly complete sequence, you can’t get that now. You could spend millions of dollars and you still wouldn’t have even a single truly complete human genome. There are much cheaper options to get something far less accurate and useful- getting down to about $10,000 currently. But we’re hoping that in five years when people talk about “sequencing ones genome”, they really mean it- really sequencing the whole thing, not just seeing part of it.
Question: How much of the entire human genome have we currently sequenced?
Answer: The most comprehensive reference assembly for the human genome still contains hundreds of gaps as of 2010, with millions and millions of missing bases.