Less than five years ago, the goal for inexpensive sequencing was $1000 per genome, the number believed to be the threshold at which doctors and insurance companies would begin adoption. Since then scads of competitors, including Illumina, Oxford Nanopore, Life Technologies, Complete Genomics, Pacific Biosciences, Helicos Biosciences (out of Stephen Quake’s lab) and others, have been racing to achieve this target. Microfluidics is a crucial component in many of these technologies for increasing throughput and reducing costs.
In the past couple years, some have even been shooting for a $100 genome. The pressure is definitely on. (A few weeks ago Helicos announced they were cutting half their staff to focus solely on the diagnostics rather than the research market.)
Weitz presented some fairly provocative figures for the cost of DNA sequencing using his technology. With an estimated sequencing cost per base of just $10-9, a 30-fold human genome sequence would cost a mere $30 and take about 10 hours. “You can quibble about the details of these calculations but the orders of magnitude are not that far off. That’s what makes us want to pursue it,” said Weitz.
GnuBio seems to be moving quickly and hopes to have beta systems completed by the end of the year. There are tons of articles speculating on who will get to $100 first. Just last week, the Motley Fool speculated on investments in genome sequencing companies. Who will win the race?