It took 13 years and close to $3 billion (£2 billion) to get to know our DNA from tip to tip. And it’s no wonder: our genomes contain more than 3 billion chemical building blocks, or bases, that all had to be read. But we have come a long way since then. So far, in fact, that individuals can now get their entire genome sequenced for less than $1,000 (£650).
This is about much more than competitive pricing, though. The company behind it, Veritas Genetics, wants to use the sequencing data it gathers to “remove the barriers to genetic testing” so that people are in a position to make informed decisions regarding their health. So it’s not your generic ancestry test: the aim is to learn more about the genes behind disease, so that ultimately we can be better equipped to detect, monitor and treat a myriad of conditions.
“While the cost of sequencing has dramatically declined, there is still a need for interpretation and information that is tangible and actionable to help individuals live better and longer lives,” founder and CEO of Veritas Genetics Mirza Cifric said in a statement.
Unfortunately, at this stage the only people who can opt in for this budget sequencing are members of Veritas Genetics’ Personal Genome Project. More than 16,000 people worldwide have enrolled themselves in this venture, offering their precious nucleic acids for scientific research and contributing towards an era of personalized medicine. No two bodies are the same, so it is hoped that by learning more about genetic differences among populations, doctors may be able to predict how patients will respond to medications and tailor treatments so that there is a better chance of success.
Of course, there are drawbacks to all of this knowledge. By no means is every disease treatable, so this raises the question of whether informing people of an impending onset of an incurable disease is ethically sound. Dilemmas aside, hopefully all of this data will ultimately lead to better medicine and a healthier world population.