Whole genome sequencing could be the next big thing for consumers

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Credit: Next Big Future

Genome sequencing was once impossibly expensive. The Human Genome Project, an international effort to decode the human genome that launched in 1990, took 13 years and an estimated $2.7 billion to complete. Then, in 2007, DNA pioneer James Watson became the first person to get his genome sequenced for less than $1 million. Since then, the cost of genome sequencing has been decreasing at a rate faster than Moore’s law.

Now, Nebula Genomics, a spinout of Harvard University co-founded by geneticist George Church, is launching an at-home test for less than the price of the latest Apple Watch. At $299, Nebula’s service analyzes a person’s entire genetic code, known as whole genome sequencing.

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Whether there is a mass market for whole genome sequencing remains to be seen. Gillian Hooker, president of the National Society of Genetic Counselors, says one hurdle is that many people just haven’t heard of whole genome sequencing or are skeptical of how useful the results will be for managing their health. …

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Right now, most people don’t walk away with actionable information, she says. But that will likely change as scientists’ understanding of genetics evolves.

With the price getting increasingly cheaper, whole genome sequencing could soon replace the more limited genetic tests that dominate the market today.

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