Commercial human genome sequencing for research

11 September 2009

US company Complete Genomics Inc. announced today that it has sequenced and analysed fourteen complete human genome sequences this year. The company says that customers including academic and commercial research organisations are using these genome sequences for small-scale disease studies to investigate conditions as diverse as cancer (breast, lung, colorectal and melanoma), HIV and schizophrenia.

CEO Dr. Clifford Reid said: “Sequencing one human genome is a scientific curiosity. We need to sequence thousands of them to be able to make meaningful discoveries about the genetic basis of disease. To that end, Complete Genomics plans to sequence 10,000 human genomes in 2010" (see press release). The company is targeting high-volume customers, for whom prices will be as low as $5,000 per genome, although they will also offer smaller-scale services, with prices from $20,000 per genome for a minimum of eight genomes.

This is a very different business proposition from companies that are currently focused on the sale of personal genome sequences to individual customers. As the cost of human genome sequencing continues to fall (see previous news), commercial outsourcing of sequencing for research purposes may become increasingly popular.  At the same time, efforts such as the 1000 Genomes Project continue to provide publicly accessible human genome sequence data for research purposes (see previous news).

Of note, different applications of human genome sequence data (whether for various forms of research, or for potential future clinical applications) may have different requirements in terms of accuracy and coverage, and so cost, whilst important, is not the only factor that will influence how the field develops and different sequencing providers move forward.

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